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High noon for big tech in Washington? | Ticker VIEWS

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While everyone was focusing on the bipartisan deal between President Biden and a group of moderate senators last week, another drama was unfolding on Capitol Hill

Officials in the House Judiciary Committee were working on the most significant move to bring antitrust laws to bear on the most powerful companies in America (and the world) since Microsoft was the target of a move to break its business model 23 years ago.

As the Big Tech companies continue to grow, they face increasing scrutiny over how they operate and whether competition is limited as a result.

Facebook, Google and Amazon in particular have been growing and extending their power and scale. This has lead to questions as to whether these companies are abusing consumers’ rights.

This is one issue that has strong bipartisan support

It has support from Republicans, because Big Tech is seen as pro-left; cancelling out the voices of President Trump and other conservatives. And from Democrats, who fear Big Tech’s rampant concentration of power.

Since President Teddy Roosevelt’s extraordinarily successful crusades a century ago, a fundamental tenet of governance in a democracy is that no company or business interest is more powerful than the rule of law. That authorities can regulate corporate power to serve the public interest.

In US telecoms and tech, AT&T and Microsoft succumbed to this imperative of how capitalism must operate.

The US House Judiciary Committee.

It is this bipartisan cooperation that opened the door to aggressive enforcement activity in Washington

Under the Trump administration, the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission filed landmark antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook.

40 US states have filed similar litigation.  The intent is consistent: break up their business models, introduce more competition, and establish rules to protect consumers.

The House Judiciary Committee last week approved five bills that would prevent Big tech mergers that could eliminate competitors. The Committee passed these bills with bipartisan support.

These bills will be difficult to enact into law, and Republicans in Congress remain divided

Trump supporters do not believe they do anything to stop Big Tech from closing down conservative media platforms. The concern comes after Twitter and Facebook both recently decided to turn off Trump. 

And if these bills do pass the House, successful Senate legislation requires a supermajority (60 votes out of 100 Senators) to pass.

What is most significant, however, is that the action sends a powerful signal that these issues are absolutely legitimate

This will strengthen the hand of both the Federal Commission, now under the new leadership of Lina Khan. It will also allow the Justice Department to litigate antitrust actions, bringing competition and consumer laws to these powerful commercial entities.  

Th Big Tech lobbyists can slow down how far Congress will go.  But not the landmark lawsuits managed by President Biden’s Executive Branch.

Read more by Bruce Wolpe here

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

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Germany recalls Tesla models due to emergency fault

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Tesla is in the spotlight again, with Germany’s road traffic agency recalling models Y and 3 due to a fault in the automatic emergency call system

It’s a fault that could possibly impact around 59,000 vehicles globally.

Germany’s watchdog says a software flaw is causing a breakdown of the e-Call, a system designed to alert authorities after a serious accident.

The glitch follows the company delivered almost 18 per cent fewer electric vehicles in the second quarter than in the previous.

This is largely due to China’s Covid-19-related shutdowns and the ongoing supply chain crunch.

Meanwhile, CEO Elon Musk says Tesla’s new factories in both Texas and Berlin are “losing billions of dollars”.

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World’s first city to charge tourists for visiting

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If you’re lucky to be heading abroad this summer, a visit to the famous canals in Venice, Italy might be on your itinerary, but beware of new fees to come.

Venice will charge most of its visitors an entry fee from next year as it tries to tackle overcrowding.

The city’s tourism chief says Venice are pioneers and will be the first city in the world to apply a measure that could be revolutionary.

From mid January next year, day-trippers must book their visit online before travelling.

They will pay a basic fee of 3 euro, which will rise to 10 euro at peak times.

Tourism is bouncing back in Venice after the pandemic with daily visitors again often outnumbering the 50-thousand residents of the city centre.

The scheme will be closely watched by other popular tourist destinations, overwhelmed with travellers around the world.

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Pubs in UK declining by thousands, new research

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It’s no secret Brit’s love their Pub Grub, but plating up Bangers and Mash is a tradition on the decline

The number of pubs in England and Wales is continuing to fall, hitting its lowest level on record this year

After struggling through Covid the industry now faced soaring prices and higher energy costs, it warned.

There were just under 40-thousand pubs in June, down by 7,000 in the past decade, according to new research.

In fact, thousands of pubs have closed as younger people drink less, supermarkets sell cheaper alcohol and the industry complains of being too heavily taxed.

Pubs which had “disappeared” from the communities they once served had either been demolished or converted for other purposes, meaning that they were “lost forever”.

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