New Antitrust Bills, NY’s $15 Broadband Blocked, Trump’s Subpoena to Apple

Congress introduces 5 antitrust bills, a federal judges blocks New York’s $15 internet, and Trump secretly subpoenaed Apple in 2018.

New Antitrust Bills, NY’s $15 Broadband Blocked, Trump’s Subpoena to Apple
Photo of former-President Donald Trump speaking CPAC in 2011, used with permission.

June 14, 2021—Following a 16-month investigation by the Antitrust Subcommittee completed last year, Congress introduced a package of five new antitrust bills on Friday aimed at limiting the power of Big Tech companies, according to reports.

BBC News reports that the bills aim to prevent companies from manipulating marketplaces to promote their own products. They make it harder for companies to buy and kill off competitors. The bills make it easier to leave social media platforms and take your data to competitors. And they also give the DoJ and FTC the resources they need to police monopoly power without increasing burdens on taxpayers.

The antitrust committee investigation, which scrutinized the business practices of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook, led to a report that accused the tech giants of charging high fees, forcing small customers into low-quality contracts, and buying out smaller companies that posed a competitive threat.

The tail end of the investigation has led to the introduction of five bills, which aim to limit the power of large tech companies:

  • The American Choice and Innovation Online Act
  • The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act of 2021
  • The Ending Platform Monopolies Act
  • The Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act of 2021
  • The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2021

The legislation comes in light of antitrust lawsuits filed against both Google and Facebook in the last quarter of 2020. In October, the Department of Justice sued Google, accusing them of using anticompetitive tactics to preserve a monopoly. The Federal Trade Commission sued Facebook in December for similar reasons, specifically over their acquisitions of rival companies like WhatsApp and Instagram.

Federal Judge Blocks New York State Broadband Affordability Act

On Friday, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction on a New York state law that would force internet service providers to provide affordable internet access to low-income residents, Ars Technica reported on Friday.

The bill would require ISPs to offer download speed of at least 25 megabits-per-second at no more than $15-per-month or download speeds of at least 200 megabits-per-second at no more than $20-per-month.

The law was passed by the state legislature in April and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But lobby groups working for ISPs sued New York to block the law, which was slated to take effect starting on Tuesday. On Friday, the lobby groups received a preliminary injunction from New York’s Eastern District Judge Denis Hurley, temporarily stopping the bill from taking effect.

Hurley says that the law would cause “irreparable harm” and “unrecoverable losses” to smaller telecom companies who would face penalties if they failed to meet the requirements or would have to significantly cut their revenues by charging customers less, the Verge reports.

Hurley also says that the New York law interferes with the scope of the Federal Communications Commission because it “Regulates within the field of interstate communications.”

While Gov. Cuomo intends to move forward with the bill in court, Hurley says that ISPs are likely to win the lawsuit.

Trump Administration’s Secret Subpoena to Apple

The Justice Department secretly subpoenaed Apple in February 2018 for account information of the then-White House Counsel Don McGahn and his wife, securing a gag order to bar the company from telling McGahn about it, according to the New York Times.

Apple informed the McGahns of the subpoena last month when the gag order expired. Apple has not yet commented on the matter, and the Justice Department declined to comment.

NPR reports that an individual familiar with the matter, who asked to be kept anonymous due to the sensitivity of the information, says that it is unclear what the Justice Department was investigating or whether the prosecutors were able to obtain any of McGahn’s account information.

Top Democrats in Congress are calling on former Attorneys General William Barr and Jeff Sessions to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the subpoenas.

“The revelation that the Trump Justice Department secretly subpoenaed metadata of House Intelligence Committee Members and staff and their families… is shocking,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, in a statement on Friday. “This is a gross abuse of power and an assault on the separation of powers.”

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