The Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee has reportedly introduced a package of bills meant to rein in Big Tech by, among other things, requiring interoperability and nondiscrimination against rivals.
Both Democrats and Republicans have called for tighter antitrust oversight of the biggest of Big Tech--Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google particularly--arguing they have essentially bought up to monopoly by buying smaller companies before they are large enough to raise red flags and that mammoth size and market power is a recipe for anticompetitive conduct.
According to Consumer Reports, which has pushed for many of the moves outlined in the bills, they would:
1. Require interoperability for large platforms to reduce barriers to entry and provide more choice for consumers without losing access to contacts or videos or other content amassed on a dominant platform.
2. Mandate nondiscrimination on those platforms, so they give the same functionality to competitors to their platforms and on similar terms.
3. Require large online platforms to justify acquisitions including by showing that they are not targeting a potential competitor or solidifying their dominance with the deal.
4. Increase pre-merger filing fees on the biggest mergers to give antitrust enforcers the resources to vet deals and police the marketplace.
Not surprisingly, Consumer Reports was pleased.
“These proposals will strengthen the ability of antitrust enforcers to protect and promote an open online marketplace, where competition can provide meaningful choices and options to consumers and to all who seek to reach them,” said George Slover, senior policy counsel at Consumer Reports, in a statement.
The Computer & Communications Association, whose members include Amazon, Google and Facebook, called the package an "interventionist" attempt to target a handful of tech companies and a shift from market-oriented principles.
Similar arguments have long been made by ISPs when they faced regulations mandating nondiscrimination and access.
“Rather than offer broad antitrust reform applicable across the U.S. economy, these proposed regulations focus upon a few companies whose competing products and services are very popular with consumers," said CCIA President Matt Schruers. "At a time when consumers are frustrated with higher prices and fewer options in other segments of the economy, it’s perplexing that the Committee would not prioritize broad reform....The House bills would put the government in charge of industrial organization. They disregard the principles that have governed the U.S. market economy and would stop successful tech companies from providing consumers with the products and services that improve their lives," he said. "If the House has its way, these bills will fundamentally affect how American users engage with the Internet services they know and love.”
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.