from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept
We have been submerged in type of a weird asymmetrical tech coverage paradigm over the previous couple of years, through which “massive tech” is seen as absolutely the root of all evil requiring all method of hand-wringing and antitrust/regulatory reform. On the identical time, coverage leaders have merely forgotten that closely monopolized internet-adjacent sectors like “massive telecom” even exist, giving them cowl to intestine regulatory oversight, shopper protections, and media consolidation guidelines. Telecom (AT&T) and media (Rupert Murdoch) giants have efficiently exploited official public anger at massive tech to encourage this sort of lopsided coverage considering.
This week this coverage myopia shifted again to baseline a bit with Biden’s new government order targeted on shoring up competitors points. In keeping with the EO truth sheet, the order pushes greater than 72 completely different initiatives throughout a dozen federal businesses, together with the FCC and telecom. Mike coated the not telco parts, which can be coated on this publish. Most notable (for telecom, anyway) is that the order nudges the FCC to revive internet neutrality guidelines:
We have famous quite a lot of occasions how the Trump/Pai internet neutrality repeal did not simply kill “internet neutrality guidelines.” It gutted a lot of the FCC’s shopper safety authority, limiting its capability to police pretty constant telecom sector billing fraud and different unhealthy conduct. It additionally tried to ban states from filling that shopper safety void. It was successfully a large wishlist cooked up by telecom monopolies like AT&T, primarily based totally on bullshit justifications, and propped up by fabricated public help. Regardless of this, the entire thing was dressed up as “critical coverage” by press and coverage wonks who ought to have recognized higher.
Along with the restoration of internet neutrality, the Biden EO additionally takes a number of different steps to shore up telecom points. Amongst them is urging the FCC to cease telecom giants from creating block-by-block broadband monopolies by way of unique landlord preparations. The FCC handed guidelines prohibiting this again in 2007, however they’re so stuffed with loopholes that telecom giants have been allowed to faucet dance round them for years now (Susan Crawford wrote a vital primer on this drawback for Wired just a few years again).
A not insubstantial portion of the EO entails urging authorities businesses to easily do their jobs. Just like the antitrust enforcers on the DOJ and FCC, who below each administrations are sometimes little greater than senseless rubber stamps for problematic job- and competition-eroding megadeals (see: the whole thing of US telecom historical past since 1990). Merely leveraging extra scrutiny to the usually illusory advantages of limitless megadeals would go a great distance in shoring up each regulation and this entire “antitrust reform” so common with the youngsters lately.
Different facets of the EO associated to telecom are extra particular, like requiring that the FCC restore plans (additionally scuttled in the course of the Ajit Pai period) requiring a form of vitamin label for broadband, making ISPs disclose hidden charges, throttling, caps, or different restrictions in your broadband line (aka transparency). The order additionally urges the FCC to gather extra information on broadband pricing, one thing it traditionally (at telecom lobbyist behest) hasn’t been eager on doing for what ought to be apparent causes.
Most of those proposals are widespread sense, whereas others restore a number of the FCC shopper safety authority and insurance policies telecom giants stripped away in a parade of fraud and dodgy bullshit in the course of the Ajit Pai period. However a lot of them require a absolutely staffed FCC and everlasting company boss to truly implement, one thing the Biden administration has been in no rush to supply, a lot to the annoyance of shopper teams. There’s a number of floor to cowl between what’s within the government order and precise implementation, and it is going to require an FCC with some actual spine to perform most of it.
Nonetheless, a lot to AT&T and Comcast’s chagrin, the Biden EO makes it clear that the issues created by massive telecom have not been totally forgotten, nonetheless a lot these regional monopolies would like coverage conversations to stay myopically fixated on massive tech and massive tech alone.
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Filed Below: antitrust, broadband, competitors, doj, government order, fcc, joe biden, internet neutrality, telco