Amazon’s Profits, Income, Stock Price Skyrocket During 2020

For Q1 2021, Amazon reported record profits of $26 billion, more than the previous three quarters combined, with net income more than tripling to $8.1 billion and revenue of $108 billion, surpassing FactSet’s analyst predictions. In addition to Amazon’s successful quarter, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft all enjoyed major upticks in profits and revenues, the result of the increased need for their products and services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon expects that its Q2 sales will reach between $110 billion and $116 billion. Continue reading Amazon’s Profits, Income, Stock Price Skyrocket During 2020

Senate Judiciary Committee Grills Tech Execs on Algorithms

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s panel on Privacy, Technology and the Law pressed executives from Google’s YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter this week on how user content is shared via algorithms that can be misused. The top Republican on the panel, Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) stated that the use of such algorithms are “driving us into poisonous echo chambers.” Congress is currently considering the fate of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects platforms from liability for what their users post. Continue reading Senate Judiciary Committee Grills Tech Execs on Algorithms

New York Makes Internet Affordable for Low-Income Families

New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill requiring Internet service providers to offer broadband to low-income families for $15 per month, noting that it is “an essential service.” At the signing, Cuomo was accompanied by former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, who chairs a state commission on technology. The new mandate was passed by the New York State Legislature. Cuomo also revealed that Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation will provide free Internet to 50,000 students in the 2021-2022 school year. Continue reading New York Makes Internet Affordable for Low-Income Families

Coalition of Small Businesses Aims to Weaken Amazon’s Grip

Trade groups representing small merchants in hardware, office supplies, books and groceries are organizing in 12 cities to form Small Business Rising, a coalition for stronger antitrust laws and enforcement of existing ones. They hope new measures will force Amazon to spin off its own business lines that compete with them. The House Antitrust Subcommittee is already considering such legislation but hasn’t yet introduced a bill. Amazon called the efforts “misguided interventions in the free market.” Continue reading Coalition of Small Businesses Aims to Weaken Amazon’s Grip

Supreme Court Allows FCC to Relax Media Ownership Rules

In a 9-0 ruling authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the U.S. Supreme Court loosened local media ownership restrictions, which could enable more industry consolidation. It’s viewed as a victory for broadcasters that wanted to overturn the 2017 decision of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that found the FCC did not sufficiently consider the effect of changes on minority and female owners. The FCC appeal was supported by News Corp, Fox Corporation, Sinclair Broadcast Group and the National Association of Broadcasters. Continue reading Supreme Court Allows FCC to Relax Media Ownership Rules

The Biden Plan to Deliver Broadband Internet to U.S. Homes

President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan includes $100 billion to bring high-speed broadcast Internet to every home in the United States. The need for broadband became especially acute during the COVID-19 pandemic in which working, learning and shopping became largely remote. Although the digital divide was first identified during the Clinton administration, multiple government efforts to bridge it thus far have been unsuccessful. Biden also vowed to drive down prices for Internet to make it affordable for everyone. Continue reading The Biden Plan to Deliver Broadband Internet to U.S. Homes

Biden to Issue Executive Order Upgrading U.S. Cybersecurity

President Joe Biden is working on a draft executive order to require companies doing business with the federal government to report hacks within a few days. Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated the order would also require the companies to use data encryption and two-factor authentication and would combat ransomware and improve protection for industrial control systems, transportation and election security. The SolarWinds hack has prompted the government to pay closer attention to cybersecurity. Continue reading Biden to Issue Executive Order Upgrading U.S. Cybersecurity

AT&T Resists Plan to Bring High-Speed Fiber to Rural Homes

AT&T expressed opposition to the proposal of subsidized fiber-to-the-home for everyone in the U.S., with the argument that rural communities don’t need anything faster than the existing service’s 10Mbps upload speeds. AT&T executive vice president of federal regulatory relations Joan Marsh defined “broadband for the 21st Century” as its VDSL (very high-speed digital subscriber line), a 14-year-old system that uses copper telephone wires for the last mile to the home. She noted the “significant additional cost” to deploy fiber to every home, saying there is “no compelling reason” to justify the expense. Continue reading AT&T Resists Plan to Bring High-Speed Fiber to Rural Homes

Congress Grills Big Tech Executives on Accountability Issues

Prior to a House hearing on social media’s role in extremism and disinformation, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg submitted written testimony on Section 230, suggesting that “platforms should be required to demonstrate that they have systems in place for identifying unlawful content and removing it.” Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act holds that platforms are not liable for content posted by their users. In a bipartisan effort, lawmakers are pushing for change. “Our nation is drowning in disinformation driven by social media,” suggested Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pennsylvania). “We will legislate to stop this.” Continue reading Congress Grills Big Tech Executives on Accountability Issues

Cybersecurity: White House Pursues Public-Private Alliances

Russia and China recently ran sophisticated hacks from servers inside the United States, going undetected by the National Security Agency, which is prohibited from conducting surveillance in the U.S., as well as the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. Private computer security firms were the first to raise the alarm on these foreign attacks, and Microsoft reported that its patches are being reverse-engineered by criminal groups to launch ransomware attacks on corporations. The White House is paying attention. Continue reading Cybersecurity: White House Pursues Public-Private Alliances

Biden Orders an Evaluation of Semiconductor Supply Chains

In response to a worrying shortage in chips, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to conduct a 100-day review of the supply chains for semiconductors for various products, large-capacity batteries for electric vehicles, pharmaceuticals, and rare-earth elements crucial to technology and defense. Biden is also seeking $37 billion in funding to “supercharge” chip manufacturing and urged a separate one-year review of supply chains of six “broader sectors” including food production and technology. Continue reading Biden Orders an Evaluation of Semiconductor Supply Chains

Court Decision Allows California to Enforce Net Neutrality Law

In 2018, former California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill making the state the first to enact a net neutrality law. The Trump administration sued to block it, and the Biden administration dropped that suit, but the telecom industry had filed a separate suit. Now, U.S. District Court judge John A. Mendez denied the telecom suit, allowing the state to enforce the 2018 law. State senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) called the decision “a huge victory for open access to the Internet, our democracy and our economy,” while some industry groups suggest federal legislation would be a preferred approach to a state-by-state model. Continue reading Court Decision Allows California to Enforce Net Neutrality Law

Section 230 Faces Bipartisan Scrutiny and Potential Updates

At the very end of his presidency, Donald Trump tried to strike down Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which essentially provides online platforms with immunity from liability based on third-party content. He failed, but Congress has received 20 proposals to update or change the section. On February 5, three Democratic senators introduced a bill to make social media firms accountable for enabling cyberstalking, harassment and discrimination. More recently, Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-South Dakota) plan to reintroduce the PACT Act, a proposal to jumpstart change. Continue reading Section 230 Faces Bipartisan Scrutiny and Potential Updates

White House Names Official to Lead Probe of Expansive Hack

In December, suspected Russian hackers compromised SolarWinds Corp., a small software vendor, leveraging it to infiltrate the U.S. departments of Commerce, State and Treasury, as well as numerous private companies. An in-depth investigation revealed that the hack’s scope was larger than first known, with about one-third of those hacked having no direct connection with SolarWinds. Now, the Biden administration has selected White House National Security Council senior official Anne Neuberger to lead the response. Continue reading White House Names Official to Lead Probe of Expansive Hack

Senator Klobuchar Calls for Tough New Antitrust Legislation

As incoming head of the Senate antitrust subcommittee, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) renewed her call to legislate major changes to U.S. trust laws. Specifically, the legislation would prevent companies that dominate in a sector from purchasing other companies unless they can prove the deals don’t “create an appreciable risk of materially lessening competition.” Klobuchar suggested such changes in Congress’ previous session and Republicans largely rebuffed them. Democrat control of the Senate could improve the odds of passage. Continue reading Senator Klobuchar Calls for Tough New Antitrust Legislation

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