AT&Teabaggers

It’s once again time to realize that creating monopolies is a bad thing, and we’ve had several weird ones that we broke up in the past. Railroads. Movie studios and their theaters. The Bell system

Today we’ve got a new one, Amazon, which is both publisher and distributor for many books and because they don’t like libraries (socialist institutions that they are) Amazon doesn’t sell audio books from its own publishers to libraries. This is classic anti-trust behavior and must be broken up. 

We’ve also got AT&T. Now some of you are old enough to remember that AT&T was the Bell System, and are wondering if it was already broken up. It was. But, as evidenced by it’s ridiculous blog post today about zero-rating their own studios, it seems that AT&T didn’t learn its lesson and has instead decided that it will become a studio and a distributor, and that is a problem. It’s, in fact, the same problem that movie studios had in the 1930s, where it appeared that they had colluded together (they did) to control the distribution (which they owned) and the exhibition (which they also owned) so they could extract more money by removing competition. Currently AT&T owns Warner Brothers, and they were attempting to leverage their network to improve their profits by making their stuff “free” and charging data rates on everything else. That’s illegal.

These are the clear cut cases. The Department of Justice should file and end these immediately. AT&T should divest of any production studio. Comcast should divest of NBC-Universal. It’s the same gig.

And Amazon should be forced to divest of their publishing houses. End of discussion.

Some of you out there are now wondering why I haven’t brought up Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft, and they deserve to be investigated for their activities, but to make sure they aren’t leveraging what they do to undercut and destroy others.

Facebook just buys everyone, which is problematic and should result in some divestiture for sure. They should also just be broken up because they actually violate Section 230 of the 1996 Telecom Act because they don’t just let someone publish something, they analyze it and apply algorithms to it, causing it to have its best engagement. That’s the key. The algorithms that Facebook, and Twitter and YouTube et al, use to increase engagement actually change the content, and exposes them to legal ramifications for it. That’s the thing. They should be fined under that, because no content exists in a vacuum, and their systems actively make it dangerous. That’s on them, and is outside the protections of Section 230.

Apple seems to know that its services need to cost money and they do charge you a clear amount for them, and it’s generally the same or more as others. That’s fair. The App Store is another beast entirely, and I honestly think that the biggest and fairest investigation should be in on in-app purchases and limiting the addiction of those systems so that they aren’t just basically free money that takes from those who don’t know or can’t stop themselves. But for the rest? I’ve heard a bunch of people complaining about the 70/30 split, which I definitely think is too much to Apple, but I would point out that Apple, when they introduced that split, inverted what was going on at Amazon who did a 30/70 split, which was industry standard. So it’s not like Apple left it where it was. Now it just needs to be revisited, because the systems are still a bit unfair for the small teams and individuals, but does it rise to the level of anti-trust? No.  And for the bullshit cases trying to force Apple to let someone else onto their devices through a side-load or back-door? Nope. You want to have a device you get to control, build one. That’s simple. And yes, that means you use the payment processor that you choose, too. (I would point out that Apple could instead just force everyone to move their transactions through Apple Pay, and offer it everywhere they do business, and probably make the same amount overall, but that’s another discussion entirely.)

Google deserves to be fined a whole bunch for their previous anti-competitive behavior and have a consent decree that stops them from building their services by offering them for free and not keeping them in perpetuity at that level. From email to photo storage to RSS readers, Google has used their size to leverage themselves into new businesses and then gets bored with them and either shuts them down or just ups the pricing to levels that are incongruous with their previous stance, and force people to find new ways to do things. They killed RSS when they killed Google Reader, and that’s a death we’ve not yet come back from. They deserve to have billions wiped from their bottom line for this behavior, and to be restricted from doing anything near it again.

We need to fix how companies continue to manipulate the free market to their own nefarious gains. It’s not hard to see or understand, but damn, it’s tough to do it seems.