Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill
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The Senate Judiciary committee advanced a key antitrust bill targeting tech giants, but senators on both sides of the aisle raised concerns that could prevent them from ultimately voting for the bill on the Senate floor.
Meanwhile, after a rocky 5G rollout that was met with opposition from major airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration said most commercials flights were cleared for low visibility landings.
Let’s jump into the news.
Antitrust bill advances, but roadblocks remain
A Senate panel advanced a bill Thursday aimed at blocking the biggest technology platforms from giving preferential treatment to their own products, a proposal that has deeply divided the industry.
While the Senate Judiciary’s favorable reporting of the legislation is a major step toward moving forward a revamp of antitrust laws, time remains a major stumbling block as other items on President Biden’s agenda dominate Congress’s time.
By the numbers: Although the American Innovation and Choice Online Act was approved by a 16-6 margin, many supporters expressed reservations about its current composition and the bill may undergo major changes before reaching the Senate floor.
“We haven’t meaningfully updated our antitrust laws since the birth of the internet,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), one of the bill’s lead co-sponsors along with Judiciary ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “For the time the monopoly power is going to be challenged, in what I consider to be a smart way.”
The legislation would block dominant online companies defined by user base and revenue — likely at least Amazon, Apple, Meta and Google — from giving preference to their own goods or discriminating against rival products on their platforms.
In practice, that could look like Amazon no longer being able to place its own products at the top of results or Google being barred from highlighting its own services in search.
Critics of big tech companies have long held that that kind of self-preferencing boxes out competitors and ultimately decreases the quality of options available to consumers.
Rocky road ahead: The legislation, a version of which was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee during a marathon session last summer, faces a difficult path to passage.
Thursday’s Judiciary committee markup was shorter than anticipated, with several senators withdrawing amendments with the caveat that they wanted opportunities to address their issues with the bill before a floor vote.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) brought dozens of amendments before pulling them back and ultimately voting against the legislation.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who admonished his colleagues for not tackling unsubstantiated evidence of anti-conservative bias, brought up proposals to introduce a limited private right of action to the legislation but opted not to bring them to a vote.
Cleared for landing (mostly)
An estimated 78 percent of the U.S. commercial fleet has been cleared to do low-visibility landings at airports with 5G wireless service, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Thursday.
That’s up from an estimate of 62 percent on Wednesday and includes some regional jets.
The aircraft models now approved for low-visibility landings include: all Airbus A300, A310, A319, A320, A330, A340, A350 and A380 models, all Boeing 717, 737, 747, 757, 767, 777, 787, MD-10/-11 models and some Embraer 170 and 190 regional jets, according to the agency.
“The FAA is working diligently to determine which remaining altimeters are reliable and accurate where 5G is deployed in the United States,” the agency said in a statement. “We anticipate some altimeters will be too susceptible to 5G interference. To preserve safety, aircraft with those altimeters will be prohibited from performing low-visibility landings where 5G is deployed because the altimeter could provide inaccurate information.”
RUSSIAN CENTRAL BANK PROPOSES CYRPTO BAN
Russia’s central bank on Thursday proposed banning cryptocurrency in the country over concerns about financial instability.
The bank released a report saying that cryptocurrency should be blocked as a means of transaction for government-issued currency, and financial institutions should be prevented from using it, Reuters reported. It also proposed banning the mining of cryptocurrency in the world’s third largest region for such mining, citing the large amount of energy it takes to mine the currency via powerful computers.
“Potential financial stability risks associated with cryptocurrencies are much higher for emerging markets, including in Russia,” the bank said in the report, according to Fortune. “This is due to the traditionally higher propensity for saving in foreign currency and an insufficient level of financial literacy.”
BITS AND PIECES
An op-ed to chew on: Kenny Rogers, China, and the tech business
Lighter click: America’s Next Top Covid Test
Notable links from around the web:
What to Wear in the Metaverse (The New York Times / Vanessa Friedman)
Breonna Taylor’s memory is being preserved in an augmented reality app (NBC / Patrice Gaines)
One last thing: Amazon at the mall
The mega online retailer said that it will sell things ranging from men and women’s clothing to accessories, shoes and bags, according to the AP.
Shoppers will be sent notifications while in the store that will recommend clothing styles to them, and the store will be stocked primarily with non-Amazon clothing brands.
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