It’s about to get worse: President Trump’s F.C.C., under the leadership of its fiercely deregulatory chairman, Ajit Pai, wants to let these companies become even more powerful by letting them do whatever they want and allowing them to merge with one another.
.. pushed Congress to erase rules that would have constrained these companies from using and selling our sensitive online information.
And he is getting ready to wipe out the classification of high-speed data services as a utility — even though, without this legal label, the F.C.C.’s authority to require these five companies to treat their customers fairly will be fatally undermined.
Mr. Pai is responsible for a sector that accounts for a sixth of the American economy. But even that is an understatement: Everything we do, from manufacturing to governance, requires reliable, inexpensive, world-class data transmission.
.. Perhaps the most immediate concern is the commission’s so-called net neutrality rule .. Mr. Pai has put dismantling this structure at the top of his agenda.
.. It’s not just that the existing giants want free rein over their customers. They also want even greater scale and even greater involvement in content as well as distribution
- .. Comcast bought NBCU
- .. AT&T, which already swallowed up DirecTV, wants to buy HBO’s and CNN’s programming through an $85 billion merger with Time Warner.
- .. Verizon already bought AOL, is about to absorb Yahoo
.. Other countries — South Korea, Sweden, even China — have made the widespread adoption of universal, inexpensive, high-speed data transmission a priority.
.. understand that markets, if left to their own devices, won’t deliver this benefit to all citizens.
What if your telecom company tracked the websites you visit, the apps you use, the TV shows you watch, the stores you shop at and the restaurants you eat at, and then sold that information to advertisers?
In theory, it’s possible, given the stance Washington is taking on online privacy.
.. Undoing the rules, which had been adopted last fall by the Federal Communications Commission but hadn’t gone into effect, is a boon to Verizon Communications Inc.,VZ -0.09% Comcast Corp. CMCSA +0.32% and AT&T Inc., T +0.45% which are all in the process of building data-driven digital ad businesses to complement the broadband, wireless and TV services they offer.
.. The telecom providers had argued the rules put them at a competitive disadvantage to online ad giants Google and Facebook, which generally aren’t regulated by the FCC.
.. But online advertising executives say telecom providers potentially have access to more powerful data than the two tech powerhouses. Their networks — both wired and wireless — could give them a window into nearly everything a user is doing on the web.
.. “ISPs like Verizon can now start building and selling profiles about consumers that include their friends, the news articles they read, where they shop, where they bank, along with their physical location,”
.. If a consumer uses the same telecom provider for wireless, broadband and TV service, the provider could, in theory, track the majority of that consumer’s online behavior and media consumption.
.. &T’s defunct Internet Preferences program collected web-browsing data from some home broadband customers and charged subscribers who wished to opt out of collection an additional $29 a month.