In response to past crises, investments in physical infrastructure have helped the United States recover and thrive after significant challenges. After both the Great Depression and the Great Recession, for example, increased investment in transportation infrastructure was a key part of bringing the American economy back from disaster.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant economic crisis requires a similarly significant response, but it also asks of lawmakers to consider what is next. We can’t just invest in highways—we also need to invest in the technology underpinning the information superhighway. To rebuild from one of the greatest challenges of our time, the United States must invest both in physical and digital infrastructure to secure its recovery.
For the last few years, both Democrats and Republicans have called for major infrastructure investments, only for them not to materialize. These efforts to fund infrastructure investment have focused on the physical world—highways, railroads, bridges. While those are important areas for investment, we must not forget the equal importance of digital infrastructure, especially the free and open-source software (FOSS) that is built mostly by volunteer labor and underpins the digital world. FOSS is even working its way into the physical world, as it is built into our phones, cars, and refrigerators.
FOSS began in the 1980s as an effort to give developers the ability to tinker with and alter software, which was prevented by most software vendors at the time. This led to the “free” in FOSS being defined as “Free as in Free Speech, not as in Free Beer,” although frequently the software was also free of costs. For years, FOSS was primarily the domain of hobbyists, but as computing and the internet became a larger part of daily life, so too did FOSS. The untiring efforts of countless volunteers collaborating remotely eventually led
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It is stunning that members of Congress mostly agree that four of America’s most successful companies are bullies that abuse their power to stay on top.
That was my thought reading the conclusions of a 16-month congressional investigation into whether Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple broke the law to squash competition. The assessment was, essentially, yup.
The Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have major points of disagreement, and only Democrats signed this report. But while the two parties are divided — possibly irreconcilably so — over how to fix the problem, they appear to mostly agree that those four companies should not be allowed to continue as is.
It’s not unusual to hate on large companies; it was true of big banks and oil companies at the peak of their power. But still. This feels like a moment that reflects real discomfort and derision for big technology companies, and I’m not sure there is a way to go back to the shinier, happier days.
On to some of my assessments of the report. (You can read all 449 pages for yourself here.)
It is so relentlessly negative. Where is the nuance? The House report was unequivocal that Google and Facebook are monopolies, and that elements of Amazon and Apple are as well. (My colleagues have more specifics.)
One thing that struck me is that the House Democrats saw almost everything that the big tech companies do as evidence of illegal anti-competitive activity. It felt overdone. And there was little recognition of what the U.S. economy and people have gained from the success of these tech giants.
A small example: House members called out Google for preventing other companies that
Congress should consider forcing the breakup of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google into smaller companies that can’t enter into adjacent lines of business (via NBC News). That’s the main recommendation of a 449-page Democrats on the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust published on Tuesday following the panel’s 16-month investigation into big tech that saw the CEOs from all four companies testify before Congress. They say all four companies enjoy monopolies in at least one of the verticals in which they operate.
“During the investigation, Subcommittee staff found evidence of monopolization and monopoly power,” the report says. It goes on to argue the dominance of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google has “diminished consumer choice, eroded innovation and entrepreneurship in the U.S. economy, weakened the vibrancy of the free and diverse press and undermined Americans’ privacy.”
Perhaps most notably, the report concludes Apple enjoys a monopoly in app distribution on iOS devices. “Apple leverages its control of iOS and the App Store to create and enforce barriers to competition and discriminate against and exclude rivals while preferencing its own offerings,” the report says. “Apple also uses its power to exploit app developers through misappropriation of competitively sensitive information and to charge app developers supra-competitive prices within the App Store.”
Apple’s control of the App Store is at the heart of the company’s ongoing legal feud with Fortnite developer Epic Games. In August, Epic bypassed the App Store with its Mega Drop promotion, giving mobile players the option to pay for the title’s in-game currency directly. When Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store, Epic launched a lawsuit against the company.
Among other recommendations, the report also suggests strengthing antitrust laws and requiring dominant tech companies to make their platforms compatible with the services from their competitors.
“The totality of the evidence
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) thinks antitrust regulation of Big Tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google is going to be tough, and in order to pass meaningful reforms that rein in the power of Big Tech companies, Congress will need the help of the American people. Cicilline is chair of the antitrust subcommittee in Congress and spoke Sunday as part of a Yale University School of Law conference about antitrust ahead of the anticipated release of what Cicilline calls the most extensive antitrust law reform investigation by Congress in more than 50 years. Identifying anticompetitive behavior by big companies is pretty easy, he said, but developing solutions and gathering the necessary political support for reform is the challenge.
“We’re going to have to combat companies that have an enormous stake in maintaining the status quo, which has been enormously profitable for them, and so this will be a big fight,” he said. “We’re going to need the support of the American people. When we move forward with this legislation, it will only happen if we can rally the country around it, because we’re fighting against strong economic forces and powerful corporations that are likely to oppose what we’re trying to do, and getting the American people on our side to understand it matters in their daily lives is going to be really critical.”
Cicilline said it’s important for the American people to understand that the rise of Big Tech companies has resulted in a decline in innovation, increased cost to consumers, less choice for consumers, a degradation of quality, a decline in trustworthy news sources, and a decline in worker power. He’s also called the power of Big Tech companies a threat to democracy.
In June 2019, the antitrust subcommittee, a part of the House Judiciary committee, began an
The official website of the 13th National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) was launched on October 3, at daihoi13.dangcongsan.vn.
The website, built and operated by the Communist Party of Vietnam Online Newspaper, will update the latest news about Party congresses at all levels and the 13th National Party Congress. The news will be published in Vietnamese, English, French, Chinese, Spanish and Russian.
Speaking at the launching ceremony, member of the Party Central Committee’s Secretariat Tran Quoc Vuong said Party congresses at the municipal and provincial level are underway, and the 13th National Party Congress is scheduled to take place in the first quarter of 2021.
He suggested the website serve as a forum to collect and respond to public feedback on Party congresses and draft documents to be submitted to the 13th National Party Congress, resolutely fight and reject wrongful allegations and sabotage plots by hostile forces.
Vuong asked press agencies to provide the latest and correct news, photos and videos before, during and after the Party congresses for the website.
Head of the Party Central Committee’s Commission for Information and Education Vo Van Thuong required press agencies and the Communist Party of Vietnam Online Newspaper to increase coverage of draft documents to be submitted to the 13th National Party Congress.
Thuong also stressed the need to put into operation a press centre in service of the 13th National Party Congress.
Prepare and organize the National Party Congress well, bring the country into a new stage of development
VietNamNet would like to introduce an article by Party General Secretary and President Nguyen Phu Trong, entitled “Prepare and organize the National Party Congress well, bring the country into a new stage of development”.