Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:
New Era of Antitrust? After weeks of negotiations, the Justice Department will open investigations into Apple and Google while the Federal Trade Commission will take on Amazon and Facebook for potential violation of antitrust laws. Stocks for all four companies fell on Monday as the House of Representatives judiciary committee announced the launching of its own investigation. Members of the House believe the inquiry may lead to a major reevaluation of U.S. antitrust legislation—based on the consumer welfare standard—in order to redefine competition rules for industries in the digital-age. The federal agencies have yet to launch investigations but tech leaders are anticipating the worst: lawsuits, fines, and new limiting regulations. The probes come with bipartisan support as Democrats have been calling for action to break up big Silicon Valley companies and Republicans have criticized Big Tech’s power over online communications.
FCC 5G Auction, Success or Failure? : The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auctioned wireless frequency spectrums as part of the Trump administration’s efforts to advance U.S. companies’ 5G capabilities. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon came out as the top bidders, collectively spending almost $2.3 billion of the total $2.7 billion raised. AT&T and Verizon have already started 5G deployment and analysts expect cellular service providers to invest heavily in wireless infrastructure that should make broadband cheaper and faster. Still, the total raised is notably smaller than the $20 billion to $45 billion the telecoms industry spent in previous auctions covering 3G and 4G airwaves.
Silicon Valley Feels the Burn of Tech Cold War: Silicon Valley is anticipating major disruptions in global supply chain as the U.S.–China trade war intensifies. The Chinese government announced plans to assemble an “unreliable entities list” in response to U.S. efforts to deny Chinese companies’ access to American technology. According to Commerce Ministry Spokesperson Gao Feng, an entity would be added to the list when it “endangers China’s national security and interests.” China’s actions are a response to the United States’ placement of Huawei on the Commerce Department entity list, which have already cost several U.S. companies millions of dollars in losses in sales. Losses from competing U.S. and Chinese entity lists could total in the billions, and the business community hopes that any future U.S.-China trade agreement includes a resolution of these issues.
Apple’s Week of Highs and Lows: Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference began Monday where the company announced a string of new products, features, and updates. Among the enhancements is Apple’s own Single Sign On (SSO), allowing users to access third party services without creating a new account. Sign in with Apple has unique features that stand to enhance user security and undermine digital marketing efforts by allowing users to hide their emails from third party services to prevent email collection. Amid the rollout of new products, Apple was hit with a lawsuit from iOS developers. Developers claim Apple’s tight control over its App Store constitutes an unfair monopoly. Apple charges a 30 percent commission on app and in-app sales, a yearly fee, and mandates that prices end in 99 cents, which the suit says restricts pricing. This action comes after last month’s Supreme Court decision allowing consumers to seek damages against Apple for apps from third-party developers purchased on the company’s App Store.
Huawei’s Goes on Damage Control: Huawei is on a public relations mission to ease tensions with the United States. This week the Chinese telecom offered to sign a “no-spy agreement” with the United States. Huawei has offered similar deals to the UK and Germany, though it is unlikely to gain any traction with U.S. officials who argue that Chinese law compels the company to give information to Beijing. Huawei also sold its majority shares in its undersea-cable project after the United States and its allies argued such cables provide the Chinese government greater access to spy or disrupt communication networks. As Huawei conducts damage control with the United States, the company is strengthening its partnerships in other parts of the world, including extending its existing agreement with the African Union for another three years.