Midterms Shifted Senate Toward Level Playing Field For Comm…


Three hotly-contested races from last week’s midterm elections have shifted the Senate toward a more level playing field for internet service providers (ISPs) and Big Tech. All three races were won by a Republican candidate who has taken a strong stance against Democratic favoritism toward Big Tech monopolies: U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) defeated former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) defeated Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and Josh Hawley defeated Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. The communications policy framework envisioned by this trio of winners could have Big Tech lobbyists working overtime next term.

Democrats faulted Republicans during the presidency of George W. Bush for being too deregulatory. At the same time, Democrats have favored a policy of regulating ISPs like public utilities while letting Big Tech monopolies run amuck, a policy they implemented during the Obama administration. The results? Even bigger Big Tech monopolies whose avarice and arrogance have produced one scandal after another.

We need a bi-partisan, pro-consumer framework for government oversight of all internet companies. The trio of Ms. Blackburn and Messrs. Cruz and Hawley have already laid the foundation for a new framework that would protect consumers while promoting investment, innovation, and competition throughout the internet ecosystem.

Like all just laws, this framework should be based on the bedrock principle of uniform regulations that are equally applicable to all internet companies. This principle is evident in the work of Ms. Blackburn, who introduced privacy legislation (the BROWSER Act) last year that would provide consumers with equal protection for their personal information when using ISPs, search engines, and subscription-based websites and mobile applications. Her bill addresses a fact that Senate Democrats have sought to avoid—that consumers’ privacy interests don’t depend on a company’s identity or its relative position in the internet’s chain of distribution, and neither should the protections provided by privacy law.

Equal protection (for consumers and internet companies) should also apply to government enforcement of net neutrality principles as well. Both Ms. Blackburn and Mr. Cruz opposed the Democrats’ discriminatory net neutrality rules, which protected Big Tech’s profits rather than consumers. Mr. Hawley doesn’t appear to have taken a public position on net neutrality regulation, but his opponent, Ms. McCaskill, voted “Yea” for a Senate resolution to reinstate the Democrats’ discriminatory approach earlier this year. Though her reelection campaign attracted “big bucks” from Silicon Valley—she raised almost 4 times as much money as Mr. Hawley—it wasn’t enough to save her Senate seat.

A national framework for internet governance should also recognize the internet’s strategic implications for U.S. national security. Mr. Cruz opposed the Obama administration’s decision to surrender U.S. oversight of the internet domain naming and numbering systems to the “global multistakeholder community,” and a bill he co-sponsored with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) to enhance cybersecurity recently passed in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Finally, any effort to reign in the power of internet companies should include stepped-up antitrust enforcement of Big Tech, starting with Google, whose digital empire was built on a series of abusive, anticompetitive practices. The Obama administration gave Big Tech a “get out of jail free card” for antitrust violations, and Congress followed suit. Though President Trump’s administration is considering the issue, Mr. Hawley has already taken action. While serving as Missouri’s attorney general, Mr. Hawley subpoenaed Google’s parent company, Alphabet, as part of an investigation for potential violations of the state’s antitrust and consumer protection laws. “We need to have a conversation in Missouri, and as a country, about the concentration of economic power” in Big Tech, Mr. Hawley told Bloomberg. He’s right, and his election to the Senate gives him a bigger platform for having that conversation—one that will be harder for Congress to ignore.

Big Tech monopolies have little to fear in the House, where the Democrats will soon be in control, but the trio of wins by Ms. Blackburn and Messrs. Cruz and Hawley could spell the end of Big Tech favoritism in the Senate.

Swiftype News

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*