Biden to sign executive order imposing consumer-friendly rules on Big Tech and ISPs

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The order aims to increase competition and lower prices for consumers

President Biden is set to sign an executive order on Friday that will impose new rules on big tech companies and internet service providers. The changes outlined in the order should ultimately help to promote competition and lower prices for consumers. 

Under the order, Biden will encourage the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reintroduce a “broadband nutrition label” to provide consumers with greater price transparency. 

The label will provide “basic information about the internet service offered so people can compare options,” the White House said in a fact sheet. “The Trump Administration FCC abandoned those plans.” 

The FCC will be urged to restrict early termination fees and to prohibit exclusivity arrangements, which force apartment buildings and rental units to use only one ISP. Additionally, the order will direct the FCC to restore the net neutrality rules that were undone in 2017, requiring broadband companies to treat all internet services equally. 

Targeting Big Tech 

The mergers of major internet platforms like Amazon and Facebook will also be scrutinized more carefully. 

The Biden administration said it will be paying “particular attention to the acquisition of nascent competitors, serial mergers, the accumulation of data, competition by ‘free’ products, and the effect on user privacy.” This is the type of deal that many believe Facebook exemplified when it bought Instagram and WhatsApp. 

The order also zeroes in on companies’ collection and use of consumer data and how it affects competition. 

"For decades, corporate consolidation has been accelerating. In over 75% of US industries, a smaller number of large companies now control more of the business than they did 20 years ago. This is true across health care, financial services, agriculture and more," the White House said in a statement.

"That lack of competition drives up prices for consumers. As fewer large players have controlled more of the market, mark-ups (charges over cost) have tripled. Families are paying higher prices for necessities -- things like prescription drugs, hearing aids, and internet service."

The White House said higher prices and lower wages caused by lack of competition are now estimated to cost the median American household $5,000 per year.

Other elements of the order

Under the order, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be tasked with creating new rules on data collection. The agency will also be asked to clamp down on unfair competition in online marketplaces. 

The Biden administration also wants consumers to have the right to repair their own devices. The order encourages the agency to “limit powerful equipment manufacturers from restricting people’s ability to use independent repair shops or do DIY repairs, such as when tractor companies block farmers from repairing their own tractors.” 

Biden’s order also asks the Department of Health and Human Services to work up a plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs and prevent price gouging. It also pushes for states to be allowed to safely import prescription drugs from Canada, where medication costs are lower, and to allow for hearing aids to be sold over the counter. 

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