tv The Communicators The Communicators Tech Reporter Roundtable CSPAN July 30, 2021 10:30pm-11:01pm EDT
today, a fast reliable internet connection is something nobody can live without. we are there for our customers with speed, reliability, and choice. now more than ever, it all starts with great internet. >> so sport -- support c-span as a public service along with these other providers, giving you a proceed to democracy. >> this week on the communicators, a look at some of the telecommunications and tech issues that will be discussed in washington over the next couple of months. joining us are three working tech and telecommunications reporters. catherine prensky of the washington post, in the center, margaret miguel of axios, on the far right john hendel of political. we will start -- of politico. we will start reverse order, i want to start with the suit
president trump filed against facebook, twitter and some of the other facebook -- social media companies. john, what is your thoughts on this and is it where? >> it is good to be here. right now, most people are looking at the suit, not necessarily -- they don't think anything is going to happen in court. the important thing is what it might mean two years from now come for years from now. right now, you look at this as a strategy for setting up what the rhetoric will be around the midterms, a former president runs for reelection. i think he is going to be coming to these notes around big talk -- big tech and what he sees as censorship. it is going to dominate the debate there. for him, this is a useful thing to come back to. his last year in office, he saw him invoking his concerns around the section 230 protections the
tech companies have. the way this interesting, every few weeks he would bringing into a debate. i don't think many legal scholars really expect the case to go anywhere against these tech companies, but he is not afraid to calm them a chance he can, bring up his concerns. it is going to be a campaign method. i think it is very useful for him. >> margaret? >> i agree with john, i don't think the case is going to go a wear, but i don't think it is about the legal issues, necessarily. i think this is part of the broader republican message we are born here, which is these -- we are going to hear, which is these big tech companies are biased against conservatives. i think republicans see that is motivating to their base. even if the case does not go anywhere, it may still
accomplish the former president's goals. >> do conservatives have a case that there has been some bias? >> i don't think there has been a solid evidence that shows these companies are biased against conservatives. i think the companies are trying to moderate content, hate speech, inciting violence. and where they draw the line is something i think both people -- people on both sides tend to question. >> i agree with what margaret just said. there have not been strong evidence that these companies are systematically biased against the republican party. the party sees this as a winning issue. after trump's lawsuit came out last week, there were multiple republican groups -- i think is all significant to
what we are seeing out of the state legislatures as republicans still have -- don't have power at the federal level, there increasingly pushing bills targeting this alleged censorship at the state -- at the state level. in florida, a federal judge recently stepped in and blocked that law. now in texas. >> should we be considering these social media companies as publishers, not just platforms? >> i will jump in on that. i think that is where the conversation is going. there's a lot of discussion from republicans and democrats, do we need to change the section 230 law provides them liability protection they go beyond what they have under the first amendment? i think the problem is, while
they are in agreement the law should change, there's is not agreement on how it should change, what should happen. it is going to be debated a lot. whether that turns into legislation that passes, i am skeptical. >> john? >> it is notable we have not seen a big push about how to reform the law this year. when you look at priorities, -- the priorities dominating congress, we saw the pandemic take over the early year, infrastructure taking over now. i think this includes the section 230 debate. privacy is something that was hugely part that serve the tax base, maybe 2019 to 2020. those things are off to the side of bit right now. they are important, people are interested, but there is no consensus proposal out there in either chamber that is going to move in anyway.
i agree with margaret, i think there is interest, but differences of views are so key to why this is hard to make policy. some of that goes to framing around some of that, the fact that some republicans will be insistent that these companies need to lose immunity because they do content moderation, you will see democrats saying this is essential to how they operate. i think it is worth watching, things are in the early percolating stage, nothing likely to be moving in the immediate months. >> you work for an old line publication in many ways, do you consider social media to be a competitor? >> i don't think we have used social media as a competitor. it is both a tool that we rely on heavily as journalists in
order to get in touch with persons. it is a tool we use to push out our own stories. at the same time, it has completely transformed the media landscape. i've mostly worked for traditional newspapers, so much of our thinking has shifted digitally to rather than playing for that paper the next day, thinking how quickly we can get the news online. social media plays a big role in that. it intensifies the competition as more and more journalists have the power to get information and stories out quickly via facebook and twitter. >> do you agree with what you have heard from john and margaret regarding section 230 and a potential legislation this fall. -- potential legislation this fall? >> i don't see any action on 230
in the coming months. the change in the law are so different among the parties. i don't see alignment within the democratic party on how the law should be changed. i do think it speaks to the broader -- about power and responsibility. if -- whether we're talking about section 230 or antitrust, there is a greater recognition after the pandemic, after the ball out of the 2020 election, of the immense power they have over society at large. >> on july 9, president biden side and executive -- signed executive order on competition, will this have an effect on silicon valley and some of the larger players? >> i think it will.
you can look at it a couple different ways. the executive order instructed -- encouraged agencies to take a wide range of actions meant to increase competition across the economy. on the tech front, it was telling the federal trade commission, you need to scrutinize tech mergers a lot more closely. especially these companies they're buying up competitors that could eventually grow to be rivals. the concern about facebook with its acquisitions of instagram and what's app. also tongue the federal trade commission it should consider a rule of limiting unfair methods of competition in some areas where the administration has been concerned is the sale of a company that runs an e-commerce -- platform. look at what products are doing really well, copy them and sell their own. like amazon, that is an area where there might be an unfair
method of competition. it took a long time for agencies to come up with rules and get them on the books. none of these things are going to happen quickly. in the meantime, there's this idea that we are trading the federal government to look at these behaviors. that puts the companies unnoticed, and changes their behaviors without any regulation behind them just yet. >> i completely agree. this is going to take some time to enact many of these initiatives that were recommended or encouraged by the executive order. particularly if you look at recommendations that were made to the ftc around internet service providers and creating more competition in broadband. right now, the commission has it deadlocked. i think it is going to be difficult to move on some of these recommendations from the
biden administration. we also see the antitrust board, federal government, the head of the antitrust division at the doj. this executive order was a major signal of how biden is thinking about the issues, a moderate tenet, these are progressive ideas about moderating tach. it is a sign of administration is headed, doing it might require addressing some of -- >> john? >> there's lots of rhetoric about what to accomplish, laying out dozens of actions with different agencies, you've seen across the board the biden administration not -- we are in the middle of summer right now. that is a really big thing.
that's true -- it's difficult to get things done. that is true the ftc, is certain of commerce department goals. the tech agencies there that don't have people leading them yet. in a permanent sort of way. there's no nominees for that. something i point to as worth watching and white comes to what gets done at the end of the day, it is going to matter. if you don't have people actually executing these agendas and out there, it will slow down. a lot of different progressive rhetoric in this order attracting a lot of attention. rats are pleased to see the administration come out so strong away on these issues. >> john, we will start with you, what is the topic intact and telecommunications that we have not talked about yet that you want to bring up? >> i think these debates around broadband are majority right now, is one of the few things on the table that maybe going to
get done. you at least have the white house and key members of the senate from both parties talking about a bipartisan framework, investing $55 billion to close the initial divide and get internet to rural areas or better to the cities. you've seen key players like vice president, harris showing interest in taking a leading role in moving that forward. i point to the infrastructure debate, it is hard to know whether we've crossed the finish line yet. i think that's where you are seeing momentum right now. you're saying a lot of back-and-forth over internet speeds, whether to give mind to the states, a federal agency, that is something i would look at. i just want to point to the fact that we have also seen more broadband spending and things on r&d and pandemic relief bills
and the competition with china bill that we saw. these are tons of my that could be going to r&d. the fact that washington is right to spend on things is going to be important in all of these realms of tach. >> what is the topic you would like to bring up? >> i've a great is critical right now. with china and r&d spending, the debates are increasing around artificial intelligence in the future role that will play in society is really critical. there was a major facial recognition hearing on the hill, we heard from a michigan man who was wrongfully arrested doing to a facial recognition algorithm. this is another area where there is a lot of bipartisan interest, both in ensuring that the u.s. maintains its competitive edge
in building artificial intelligence and also that there are safeguards around this technology. that is an area we will be closely tracking in the coming months. >> d.c. actual legislation on the issue of ai? >> there haven't been any major bipartisan proposals. i don't think we will see a thing immediately on that. in terms of broader things to watch, that is important. especially as we are seeing more concrete stuff on the eu. even on the state level in the local level, there's technology that can spur the federal government to act. >> your turn. >> i wanted to go back to broadband, i like writing about the topic and i think it is going to be a fairly exciting one. one issue i'm trying to track is
that president biden, when he came out with the american jobs plan, one of the things he said was american state too much for broadband. he wants to bring the cost down for all americans. that is a key statement. it is not saying i want to subsidize the cost so low income people can afford broadband. it is saying ring the prices down for everybody. i think that puts the cable and telecom companies unnoticed that there's a chance this administration might be doing something on prices, which is something those companies feared would happen under the obama administration. this idea of, we have white house stance that people pay too much for the internet, what is going to happen to bring those prices down, how will it work? will there be a requirement that every company has to offer service at a certain price point. -- at a certain price point? saying that companies had to offer a basic tier for low income households.
that law was put on will. more and more, this issue of how much do americans pay for their internet service, and is it too much, i what can the federal government do about it? that is something we should track, it is something a lot of people care about. i think it crosses over into mainstream outside of warranty technology stuff. that is one area to follow. we have not talked as much about -- we talked about antitrust, but to have it conversation about policy. it is going to be worked watching the progress of those house judiciary bills that would remake the tech companies and how they operate. what happens to them now that they are out of committee? will they be taken up on the floor? how will the senate respond? will they do something similar? those are all issues we will be tracking. >> which of these issues we have
been discussing do have bipartisan support is antitrust and bipartisan support or at least the same reasons are backing? >> i think it has some bipartisan support, but also bipartisan opposition in different quarters. that is the fascinating thing about the debate some of the house judiciary bills right now. you're saying interesting cross party lines when it comes to some of the democrats on the judiciary committee, people like congressman ken bob, a staunch republican but very much in line with many of the ideas you're saying democrats put forward. you're also saying democrats and republicans, especially those who represent california where these tech companies are based, they are raising concerns. they are worried about moving and timeline that is too fast. maybe hurting the economy because of this. i think right now, is much messier, not a party line issue at all.
if tough republicans like kevin mccarthy at the top of the judiciary committee very much trying to discourage movement on these bills, encourage republicans up to support them. i think it is fascinating. nursing divisions of both parties. >> catherine? >> i don't think we are seeing different motivations, it is really interesting to have 10 bucks to bring these bills, how he has been connecting these antitrust bills are bipartisan to the broader republican base that we talked about earlier. his argument is that it would not matter as much what facebook does on content moderation if there were other -- people had a choice about which platform to go to.
among democrats, we are seeing issues for different reasons. there are concerns about companies power, broader concerns about economic inequality, the lack of responsibility that the tech companies have taken on their platform. it is interesting to see such a different aspect of the political spectrum coming together for different reasons. >> i agree with everything that catherine just said, one thing i would add, a turning point for congressman buck was when the committee in january 2020, it must've been that was when there could be hearings, they held a field hearing in colorado, where they brought in small businesses, including some from that state. he is from colorado. it was a turning point for him,
hearing from small businesses talking about competing against these larger companies. i think that message resonated with him, for them to say what we what a fair shake here and we are not getting it. i think that is leading to some of his >> motivations and supporting that legislation as a republican wind to help small businesses. >> one thing we haven't discussed yet with bipartisan support that macy legislation is privacy. john, where are we on privacy? >> privacy is an interesting one. i mentioned earlier, there was a lot of momentum a year or two back. psaki members of the senate commerce committee -- you stop members of the senate commerce committee. i think that has been a little sidelined this year. that is one where there has been a loss of trust in the tech
companies, there is common interest in playing safeguards in place, but i think the division that knocked this idea from a couple of years ago still exists. we have not seen as much time devoted to hashing out those issues this year. using the house talk about maybe convening some roundtables. some talk about trying to get back to it. but we have not had hearings in the big way along the lines of what we had before. it seems -- two years ago you have congress facing down california implementing its privacy law, you had the european union, new privacy rules going in the place. that is the excepted state of play brett now, i don't think it is driving the debate in the safe -- in the same way. it is something to watch, lawmakers themselves will need to be rolling up their sleeves and jumping back. when they're trying to juggle
infrastructure, trillion dollar covid relief bills, they have not been looking at this in the same way. >> margaret? >> i think the state legislates a lot on this issue, what the actions of virginia and colorado have recently taken on privacy. one point of debate i do agree the privacy issues have taken a backseat on capitol hill to what we saw a few years ago. there's this big intersection of the privacy debate with competition issues. it is notable when you look at the biden executive order, targeting the tech giants. the call for greater scrutiny in agencies data collection and surveillance, which has privacy implications. >> i would like to one thing, on the state front, i think what happens is you hear from
companies, we can't have this patchwork of state laws for privacy, we need a federal standard, from a consumer advocacy point of rule -- point of view, every state law -- that is setting higher standards for what a federal law should be. i don't think there's as much about motivation to have a federal law, each state law becomes the dibacco national privacy law. >> i think there might be other -- did fact to national privacy law. >> i think there might be other -- that is going to be a direction to watch. work globally, the biden administration been very focused on a transatlantic data flows, trying to reach a deal with europe on that. that is one area where that
could drive some of the discussions on privacy, really create motivation among u.s. policymakers have a clear standard. i think you will see debates moving. it is interesting. i think everyone thought there was time for a federal privacy logic come together, it would have been a year or two ago. we are still here and there's still no law. >> it was about a year ago that we really start talking about 5g, haven't heard much about it recently, where are we on 5g? >> 5g is an interesting one. i think the debate there has centered on the security implications of foreign companies like waiwei and cpe, operating out of china. the u.s. has long accuse them of having different vulnerabilities and connections to the chinese government. companies have denied that, but that has made 5g a much more geopolitical issue.
the big point of interest in the u.s. right now is trying to have some alternative to that. you also have europe's erickson, but that is 5g, this new wave building 5g networks that have open access protocols. that is going to be an interesting debate. he saw lawmakers on capitol hill talking about when to invest a lot of money in r&d to get 5g up. this would involve more u.s. companies, a greater number to put together the actual networks. i pointed out that is one thing to watch. that is something where the ftc clearly has interest, the hill has interest, there is one industrial policy pick -- where people are thinking, how do we compete with china. this is one answer they have, even though it might be years off before this is a viable bit
of competition, there's been a debate how long it will take. companies that have always might -- huawei. >> but it seems like there has been a shift, the trump administration was very focused on 5g, whatever we need to do to speed that technology along. i think with the biden administration, at least on the infrastructure, you don't hear as much about 5g in infrastructure side. it seems like they are more focused on cyber and having those wired connections in the home. i think there is skepticism on their part that 5g could be a true replacement for in-home broadband. verizon talked about doing their 5g fixed wireless service as a competitor to cable, you don't hear a lot from the administration in terms of what
technology -- they really think fixed wireless is going to be a competitor to the what fiber can offer. what we are talking about broadband in the digital divide, i'm hearing more about wired connections and less about 5g. >> 30 seconds. >> i've been watching how the pandemic is in fact -- impacted the rollout of 5g. before they talked about the role 5g complaint health care, and the new normal and the way pandemic changed how we work and go to school and access of my services, it could have an effect on how these companies are thinking mother 5g limits. >> margaret mcgill to axios and john with politico, all three are working tech and telecommunications reporters. we appreciate you being on the
communicators. >> thank you, peter. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> including buckeye broadband. ♪ >> burke bok broadband support c-span as a public service, along with these other public providers, giving you a front proceed to democracy. >> the senate will be in tomorrow for a weekend session as the text of a bipartisan infrastructure deal is being finalized. roll call votes are possible after they gavel in at 11:00 eastern. watch live coverage on c-span
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