House antitrust bills could change the internet as we know it. Here's how
June 23, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.
Compression ratio: 23.4%. 2 min read.
The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. The bipartisan group of senators trying come up with an infrastructure compromise say they are moving closer to agreement on a proposal but are still wrangling with how to pay for their plan in the face of White House opposition to indexing the gasoline tax to inflation. Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Over the last two decades, a handful of large tech companies have pushed into nearly every corner of our lives — from communications and retail to financial services, healthcare and automobiles.
While the bills don't name individual companies, there are a few obvious targets, including Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG).
For example, it said in a letter to a top House Democrat, Google would be barred from showing shopping listings at the top of search results because that could be perceived as disadvantaging Amazon.
A spokesman for Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the Washington-state Democrat who co-authored the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, one of the six House antitrust bills under consideration, said a driving factor behind the bill is accusations that Amazon's massive size and various business lines allow it to dominate and control sellers on the platform.
"The bipartisan Ending Platform Monopolies Act requires dominant platforms including Amazon to divest lines of business — such as Fulfillment by Amazon — where the platform's gatekeeper power allows it to favor its own services," said the spokesman, Chris Evans, who cited reports by numerous sellers who felt "they had no choice but to pay for Fulfillment by Amazon in order to sell their products. "
Amazon has said that by requiring the company to stick to one business model, the bills could force it to stop supporting independent, third-party sellers, to the detriment of the economy.
"More than a half million American small- and medium-sized businesses make a living via Amazon's marketplace, and without access to Amazon's customers, it will be much harder for these third-party sellers to create awareness for their business and earn a comparable income," said Brian Huseman, Amazon's vice president of public policy.
A bill led by Rep. David Cicilline would outlaw tech giants' ability to elevate their own services and products over similar ones provided by competitors, which could impose vast new obligations on Google's search business.
(The legislation's proposed restrictions on self-preferential search ranking would similarly apply to Amazon's marketplace and Apple's App Store, where search is a key function. )
The bills could also open the door to third-party app stores for the iPhone, Apple said Wednesday — a potentially monumental disruption to Apple's walled-garden ecosystem that currently makes the Apple App Store the only source for iOS apps.
Cicilline has not said definitively whether Microsoft would be a "covered platform" as defined in the legislation, though he has warned that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are likely not the only companies that will meet the bar for coverage.