Statt Big Tech zu zer­schlagen, sollte es den Internet­ausbau finanzieren

Bhaskar Chakravorti, Dekan für Global Business an der Fletcher School der Tufts University kommentiert in der Harvard Business Review die aktuellen Entwicklungen in den USA mit Blick auf die Regulierung der großen Technologiefirmen:

  • For months now, the drumbeat for reining in Big Tech has been getting louder. Critics have suggested solutions from breaking up Facebook and Amazon to regulating social networks and search engines as public utilities. This summer, the heads of major tech firms were hauled before Congress, and the House Antitrust Subcommittee reportedly is following up with a major report calling for a breakup of the biggest of the Big Tech companies as a capstone to its 15-month investigation.“ – bto: Und wir wissen, dass die großen Technologiefirmen enorme Gewinne machen und ihre Finanzkraft auch dazu nutzen, in anderen Bereichen zu dominieren.
  • Most significantly, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reportedly started briefing state attorneys general on its proposal to launch a landmark antitrust lawsuit against Google — the most important anti-tech antitrust action since the 1998 case against Microsoft. There is clear legal, regulatory, and political momentumbehind taking action, and soon there will be no turning back. The question is: Is anti-tech antitrust the right tool to address America’s biggest technology problem?“ – bto: Ist es ein US-Problem? Oder ist es ein Problem für den Rest der Welt?
  • Historic as this push to challenge the power of these companies may be, the long history of antitrust action against Big Tech is not encouraging — particularly if you are hoping for a big company to be broken up outright. In 1956, the Bell System monopoly was left intact after a seven-year legal saga. The antitrust action against IBM lasted 13 years. Outcome? You guessed it: The behemoth remained unbroken. The 1998 action against Microsoft, in which the government argued that bundling of applications programs into Microsoft’s dominant operating system constituted monopolistic actions, ended three years later with a settlement and the company intact.“ – bto: Es gibt ja auch Konsumentennutzen aus dem Ganzen.
  • Any antitrust action against these companies will be long and drawn-out — no matter its conclusion — for a number of reasons. First, the complaints against the industry are varied, ranging from anti-competitiveness to privacy issues, data protection, and vulnerability to misinformation. Second, there are multiple large companies in the crosshairs, with different products and different suggested remedies. Third, multiple agencies are pursuing action, from the DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission to the House initiative led by Democrats to the Senate initiative led by Republicans, and each has a different approach, motivation, and timeline. Fourth, the technology itself keeps evolving. Finally, there is a precedent for settling with the tech industry: Previous antitrust actions have resulted in settlements or consent decrees where lawmakers got something from each of the companies in exchange for leaving them intact, which might well encourage companies to drag the fight out as long as possible. Putting these considerations together, it reasonable to expect a lengthy process that risks frittering away the current momentum, and which ends with a settlement that resolves issues on the margins.“ – bto: Das ist entweder gut, weil die Issues klein sind oder aber ärgerlich, weil das schlechte Verhalten andauert.
  • „(…) we need to ask just what tech problem we want to solve — and there are many jostling for attention. Lack of competition is one: Consumers have limited choices in search engines, social media platforms, and e-commerce platforms. Several applications or services are owned by platforms, giving the latter an unfair advantage — for instance, Amazon is a marketplace for third-party sellers, but it also competes with those merchants by selling Amazon-branded products. Privacy is another issue: Americans still do not have consistent data protection laws. Beyond that, users on social media are vulnerable to being fed misinformation.“ – bto: Alles Probleme, wobei es mir heute um den Wettbewerbsaspekt geht.
  • While these problems have serious implications for competitiveness of markets, functioning of democratic institutions, and preservation of privacy, there is a deeper, more foundational problem that receives much less attention – and more urgently needs to be solved. The United States’ most serious tech problem is that half of Americans struggle to reliably get online at all. At a moment when nine out of 10 Americans say internet access is essential, according to a Pew research study, this is a devastating divide. Work, school, health care, socializing, and, often, shopping for essentials have largely moved online, which means the absence of a reliable digital connection can prove ruinous.“ – bto: Es ist jetzt nicht so, dass es in Europa viel besser ist.
  • Lawmakers and regulators have an unusual opportunity right now: They can use their leverage over the most innovative and best-performing technology companies to solve the problem of internet access. (…) Lawmakers can press for the four Big Tech players that are their primary targets — Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon, and Apple — to collaborate on identifying the broadband deserts in the U.S., and designing a plan to collectively fill the gaps in a way that is affordable to users and gives them no advantage as gatekeepers. Agreeing to be a part of this solution then gives the companies the permission to remain at the table for further negotiation. This will create the right incentives to the companies to participate and take action.“ – bto: Das leuchtet auf jeden Fall ein.
  • These companies have the resources, as the pandemic has driven already historic profits to even higher peaks, and would have an interest in cooperating if there is an expectation that it might help reach an eventual settlement on the other issues on the table. It could be in the self-interest of these companies, as expanding access also expands their consumer base.“ – bto: Es ist vor allem deshalb gut, weil der Nutzen in den USA anfällt, während die Welt weiterhin die Kosten des unzureichenden Wettbewerbs trägt. „Antitrust Isn’t the Solution to America’s Biggest Tech Problem“, 2. Oktober 2020