Former FCC chair calls for regulating tech giants

Former FCC chair calls for regulating tech giants
© Greg Nash

Tom Wheeler, the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under President Obama, on Wednesday called for internet giants like Facebook and Google to be regulated.

“It is time to recognize that the most powerful companies in the country should not be making their own rules,” Wheeler wrote in a blog post for the Biden Forum.

“These are not evil companies or malicious executives,” he continued. “In the absence of ground rules, however, human nature and economic incentive take over. Aided and abetted by their powerful technological capabilities, the companies that control the internet are free to impose their will without permission or oversight.”

ADVERTISEMENT

In 2015, Wheeler passed the FCC’s net neutrality rules, which were repealed last week by the agency’s current Republican majority. Ajit Pai, who succeeded Wheeler as chairman this year, has argued that the regulations were unnecessary and onerous.

The rules required internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally, prohibiting them from blocking or slowing down certain sites and from creating internet “fast lanes.”

Pai has also made the case that giant internet platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter pose a much greater threat to an open internet than the broadband industry that his agency is deregulating.

But Wheeler argued on Wednesday that both industries need greater government oversight. He wrote that tech platforms have grown to the point where they have the power to dominate competitors across multiple industries and are able to exploit consumers’ personal information.

“Multinational tech firms such as Google and Facebook have rocketed to become the most valuable companies in the world by hijacking and selling something that isn’t theirs — the intimate and personal information about how we each live our lives,” Wheeler wrote. “And now, the network companies have joined in this exploitation to use your private information.”