back to article Big Tech to face its Ma Bell moment? US House Dems demand break-up of 'monopolists' Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google

A long-awaited congressional report into Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google has been published – and it concludes the online giants are monopolists that need to be broken up. The 449-page dossier [PDF] is the result of a 16-month investigation into Big Tech, and was produced by the staff of the Democrat-led House Judiciary …

  1. IGotOut Silver badge

    Give the FTC more power?

    With that asshat in charge? What could go wrong.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Give the FTC more power?

      Are you getting mixed up with the FCC?

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Give the FTC more power?

        While I'm not aware of Joseph Simons having done anything to bring on ire, it's possible that the original poster was instead referring to the person who currently has the power to remove and replace commissioners should they wish to mess with something. Maybe the post was intending to call for increased oversight of a bureaucratic entity should its powers be increased. Or maybe it was just an acronym confusion. I'm not sure.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Give the FTC more power?

          Simons hasn't raised ire because he hasn't done much. In the four years of the Trump administration, the FTC has filed fewer antitrust cases than at any time since the mid 1990s and they average less than half of the Obama administration.

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      FTC v FCC

      Think you might be confusing the FTC with the FCC, the latter of which is run by your friend and mine Ajit Pai.

      FCC does communications, primarily. FTC does antitrust and consumer protection.


      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: FTC v FCC

        Yup my bad. Fancy mixing those to up.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Snake Silver badge

    Are you sure?

    "the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons"

    You don't say. This is AMERICA. Are you sure about that??

    I mean, how can you tell,

    with all the robber baron billionaires, corporate scandals, insider trading, bankers collapsing the economy, union-busting, mega-merger, vertical-integration "scale of economy" takeovers, Corporations-are-people-too, industry "self regulating"

    neo Golden Age pre-1890's stuff you've been allowing you happen?

    Maybe it was just a midnight gas attack after your most recent 10-course meal with your preferred group of lobbyists? I'd recommend a finer digestif next time; Niepoort in Lalique 1863 I'm sure is right up your lobbyists' budgetary alley.

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Are you sure?

      There were serious suggestions in government during the cold war that AT&T should be broken up. The Department of Defense had to stop this by pointing out how important it was to national security. I somehow doubt concerns such as those would apply to the suggested firms.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Are you sure?

      A reminder from history, Teddy Roosevelt was elected in part to deal with the robber barons, He was a REPUBLICAN. He went against MANY in his arty, who were willing to put business interests ahead of people's (and small businesess') interests. "Bully!" [his face belongs on Mt. Rushmore along with the other 3]

      from the article: the recommendation that Amazon et al be restructured was a surprise.

      To the Dems that signed onto anti-trust action against "big tech", I say "welcome aboard".

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: Teddy Roosevelt

        From the direction of your post, I highly believe you are both misunderstanding and misusing the relation of "Democrat" and "Republican" in context to liberal versus conservative.

        Most Americans make this HUGE, HUGE, HUGE historical mistake, yet keep believing it because it supports their current world viewpoint.

        Prior to the mid-1960's with LBJ (that's president Lyndon B. Johnson), it was the DEMOCRATS who represented the conservatives of America, mostly through the power of fundamentalists Southerners. Kennedy, LBJ's predecessor and 'boss' if you will, was elected as the first Christian president partly through their power.

        When LBJ took the presidency after Kennedy's assassination, LBJ activated his "Great Society" campaign and fought with the states, most notably of course George Wallace of Alabama, for equal civil rights for all minorities, notably African-Americans. This INFURIATED the classically-Democratic (big "D") Southern fundamentalists and they, "Dixie Democrats", switched parties - the fundamentalists reorganized as Republicans.

        The rest is history, as the Republicans reorganized themselves around their majority and openly embraced their political will.

        So " Democrat = liberal" and "Republican = conservative" must be COMPLETELY FLIPPED in any references prior to approx. 1966, the major years of forced desegregation and the anti-war/anti-crime protests against Johnson.

        1. vtcodger Silver badge

          Re: Teddy Roosevelt

          Prior to the mid-1960's with LBJ (that's president Lyndon B. Johnson), it was the DEMOCRATS who represented the conservatives of America,...

          Not dead wrong, But more wrong than right. The Democrats prior to 1966 represented a curious spectrum of interests including labor unions (quite powerful back then), socialists, liberals, many (not all) working class voters and -- in the states of the old confederacy -- social conservatives whose primary interests seemed to be keeping the blacks in their place and punishing business interests for a century of real and imagined grievances. The Republicans back then were a moderate, somewhat right of center, pro-business party. Remember, it was Republican votes in the senate that carried the 1964 Civil Rights bill through.

          After the late 1970s social conservatives migrated to the Republican Party -- which seems, if one believes the polls, to be in the process of self-destructing under the "leadership" Donald Trump. The Democrats really haven't changed all that much. It's still a slightly left of center collection of diverse interests except it has lost most of the social conservatives and has formed a probably temporary alliance with moderate conservatives who find the Democrats a bit less loathsome than the crew who have hijacked their Republican party.

          1. Snake Silver badge

            Re: @vtcodger

            That's pretty much correct. But while the Classic Republicans (prior to the 1950's) were classically pro-business, they were also pragmatically middle-ground socially, as Lincoln proved. They weren't afraid to toe a middle line if that suited their purpose.

            My point was, as you note, they courted the fundamentalist movement (go watch D.L. Hughley's important interview with Frank Schaefer, ) and shifted hard-right, as they saw the political power that they could muster for their own needs. And people like McConnell are still at it.

        2. Zolko Silver badge

          Re: Kennedy

          "Kennedy [...] was elected as the first Christian president"

          close, but wrong: first (and only) Catholic US president, all others are/were Protestant.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Are you sure?

        Hmmmm. so you are a fan of the historical Republicans, Bob?

        I presume you therefore agree with the Republican Party manifesto of 1956?

        [ Summary ]

        We shall continue our insistence on honesty as an indispensable requirement of public service. We shall continue to root out corruption whenever and wherever it appears.

        We shall continue vigorously to support the United Nations.

        America does not prosper unless all Americans prosper.

        Government must have a heart as well as a head.

        Continual study of additional ways to correct inequities in the effect of various taxes.

        Continue and further perfect its programs of assistance to the millions of workers with special employment problems, such as older workers, handicapped workers, members of minority groups, and migratory workers;

        Strengthen and improve the Federal-State Employment Service and improve the effectiveness of the unemployment insurance system;

        Extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many more workers as is possible and practicable;

        Continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or sex;

        We shall continue to seek extension and perfection of a sound social security system.

        We promise unwavering vigilance against corruption and waste, and shall continue so to manage the public business as to warrant our people's full confidence in the integrity of their Government.

        We condemn illegal lobbying for any cause and improper use of money in political activities, including the use of funds collected by compulsion for political purposes contrary to the personal desires of the individual.

        The Republican Party supports an immigration policy which is in keeping with the traditions of America in providing a haven for oppressed peoples, and which is based on equality of treatment, freedom from implications of discrimination between racial, nationality and religious groups, and flexible enough to conform to changing needs and conditions.

        That all veterans be given equal and adequate opportunity for readjustment following service, including unemployment compensation when needed, but placing emphasis on obtaining suitable employment for veterans, particularly those disabled, by using appropriate facilities of government and by assuring that Federal employment preference and re-employment rights, to which the veteran is entitled, are received;

        Our national parks, national forests and wildlife refuges are now more adequately financed, better protected and more extensive than ever before. Long-range improvement programs, such as Mission 66 for the National Parks system, are now under way, and studies are nearing completion for a comparable program for the National Forests. These forward-looking programs will be aggressively continued.

        We subscribe to the general objectives of groups seeking to guard the beauty of our land and to promote clean, attractive surroundings throughout America.

        [ /Summary ]

        Full text:

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Are you sure?

        his face belongs on Mt. Rushmore

        You mean on the mountain belonging to the native Americans that was then desecrated by having the faces of their oppressors carved on it?

    3. DoctorNine

      Re: Are you sure?

      No need to worry. This is all theater for the elections. Nadler is a buffoon, and incapable of finding his way out of the room without a trail of bread crumbs. The centuries old time-honored 'capitalist' tradition of vertically integrated monopoly shall continue unabated.

      And when it all blows over, each plutocrat in the top 1% will be issued a new financial instrument.

      They are going to call it The American Excess credit card. Obsidian black, behind bold red lettering, printed with the blood of millions of destitute plebeian debtors. It will be glorious.

  4. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Poking a Grizzly in the Forest in the Bread Basket with the Blunt Instrument of a Cleft Stick ..

    ..... is Not Without Deadly Serious Risk

    Could and therefore might Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google bite and smite and destroy the present failure of a US government? Decide and declare and display it as a fascist dictatorship unworthy of popular native support and be most encouraging of effective opposition with enthusiastic foreign help and attractive alien assistance?

    And what of Microsoft? Why do they miss the cut? Are they already the US government's in-house bitch, thought bought and mighty well paid for?

    Does the staff of the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee have a magic wand to wave around to ensure that is not the result of their 449-page dodgy dossier?

    Has Uncle Sam lost the plot* and his marbles* with such an ill advised covetous attack upon Entrepreneurial Future Technologists?

    * .... losing the plot

    ** ... lose one's marbles

    1. RyokuMas

      Re: Poking a Grizzly in the Forest in the Bread Basket with the Blunt Instrument of a Cleft Stick ..

      "And what of Microsoft? Why do they miss the cut?"

      Because they already got slapped?

      Seriously, go outside the IT sphere and into the general public these days and "who are Microsoft?"

      ... maybe the guys who make Xboxes. Perhaps the guys who make the software you use when you're at work.

      Certainly not the guys who are make the tablets and phones that most people use casually in any location these days. Not the guys who let you browse the and search web, watch videos, post pictures of your cat or what you had for dinner, or look up the latest self-indulgent posts from those with a sense of entitlement who would-be famous.

      AWS... okay, that's more subtle. But it would be interesting to see whether Joe average is more aware of Microsoft or Amazon these days.

      Unless you're a developer working with their tech stack, Microsoft are very much an also-ran these days. Trying hard to get back into the thick of it, sometimes succeeding (Azure), often failing (Bing, Edge, Win10 telemetry). But Microsoft is very much "of the PC" - and while PCs are still the mainstay of the workplace, tablets and phones are now our 24/7.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Poking a Grizzly in the Forest in the Bread Basket with the Blunt Instrument of a Cleft Stick ..

        Today, how many people boot Microsoft Windows, then open Google Chrome and spend most of their time there. using something from the Google or Facebook estate? If it's something else, there's a good chance it's run from an AWS server. Of course if they are using a mobe it will be or Apple or Google, same for a tablet - Surfaces are a minority.

        Moreover Microsoft has now far more competition from open source software that it had in 1996 when it went under antitrust scrutiny. Isn't open source a success? If so, there is competition The antitrust inquiry of the time had the effect to keep Microsoft in check.

        Microsoft has still a dominant position on fhe desktop software, true. But there isn't (yet?) a walled store which is the only way to install software - the platform is far more open than iOS or Android. I'm writing this in Firefox, after all. Probably the worst platform is the XBox.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Poking a Grizzly in the Forest in the Bread Basket with the Blunt Instrument of a Cleft Stick ..

        tablets and phones are now our 24/7.

        While I agree with many of your points, this one falls short. Most people seem to use phones as phones, except for that percentage that a friend of mine calls "4 inchers" becaue they see EVERYTHING through a 4 inch screen, in super-tall portrait mode, as if they are wearing a set of blinders designed for horses. [it's why I despise videos and photos taken that way - my eyes are side to side, and so that's how I view the world, in 70mm >2:1 aspect, and NOT 1:2.4 !!!]

        ahem. anyway, phones are phones, slabs are slabs, and real work gets done on a PC because you have an actual keyboard and mouse to do it with. And 'new computer sales' is NOT the same as USAGE. Stat counter shows Android being a few percentage points ahead of windows when comparing OSs. And iOS is about 1.5 times what OSX is (grossly approximate). So they're a bit higher for internet content consumption, but do not include other uses of PCs, from games to content creation.

        And I think the limited screen size and lack of keyboard on phones and slabs is the primary reason.

    2. largefile

      Re: Poking a Grizzly in the Forest in the Bread Basket with the Blunt Instrument of a Cleft Stick ..

      "And what of Microsoft?"

      In case you've been on some other planet.... Microsoft got slapped hard 20 years ago. In the ensuing years their stock price tumbled, they got rid of the angry Ballmer monkey, they promoted Satya Nadella to the helm and he has returned them to respectable glory, restored their stock prices and actually plays by the rules. Few would have expected such a turn around yet turnaround they have.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Poking a Grizzly in the Forest in the Bread Basket with the Blunt Instrument of a Cleft Stick ..

        " In case you've been on some other planet...."

        Well, he is themanfrommars

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Poking a Grizzly in the Forest in the Bread Basket with the Blunt Instrument of a Cleft Stick ..

        Certainly in the last 5 years they undermind me getting Google in the door by their perfectly legal CAL license - basically stripped the tax payer of a few million by use of the oh-so-fair rules you speak of.

        As an MS partner, they are now seen an emerging threat to my companies' existence and we're reviewing our position with them.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Poking a Grizzly in the Forest in the Bread Basket with the Blunt Instrument of a Cleft Stick ..

        Slapped hard? You're kidding right? The second most valuable company in the US now? The company that didn't get broken up in any way, and still force their monopolistic licensing practices on PC producers and businesses alike? Oh, yeah, that Microsoft.

        They had to put a 'browser choice' icon on the desktop - 'oh no, please don't make us put a browser choice icon on the desktop, it will deeestroy us'...... and now they've gone back to forcing Edge onto Windows 10 and you can't remove it. MS got off easy and now they will be laughing about everyone else getting done over and they can pick up a few pieces here and there and make hay once their competitors have been pulled apart.

        BTW, Ballmer left MS in 2014 so that is a v.long way after the whole IE 'hard slap'! Anyway, getting shot of Ballmer was the best thing MS ever did (for themselves) - he was driving them into the dirt.

  5. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge


    The top people in Bejing will be rubbing their hands with glee. Here is their commercial enemy self-destructing right before their very eyes.

    Alibaba and the rest will be ready to pounce.

    {and on the QT, another big wedge of Yuan will be transferred to a certain account in the Caymans along with the message 'well done comrade Donald'}

  6. don't you hate it when you lose your account

    Breakup Facebook

    Does Zuck get hung drawn and Quarterd

    1. Sudosu Bronze badge

      Re: Breakup Facebook

      I think it is more like disassembled and sold as component parts...or maybe melted down and recycled?

  7. alain williams Silver badge

    If the orange one is re-elected ...

    this report will sink beneath the waves

    1. BebopWeBop

      Re: If the orange one is re-elected ...

      With legislation to 'liberalise' Twatter and Farcebook and prevent all of those nasty attempts to moderate them?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Erm, and Microsoft - they don't monopolise?

    Last time I checked MS owned linkedin Dynamics, Skype, Teams, their AD requires a CAL which means its not financially viable for most orgs using e.g. G-Suite.

    The "Linux is Cancer" crew bought themselves onto the Linux Foundation, all your public and private Github repo's. Basically anything you write Microsoft spell checks. They do not credit the open source community when they plagerize (Grid being one of the latest I know about). They make recommendations based on your email (meaning their AI read your docs before it recommended you read them before attending a meeting). Microsoft is the all-seeing-eye of the United States and rest of world and undermine all companies in their persuit of world domination. So who are these people determining every big company that isn't Microsoft need breaking up? Are they all people that have had a back-hander from the "devil incarnate"? They obviously never had to buy an OEM license back in the day just to own a PC.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "AD requires a CAL which means its not financially viable"

      Antitrust laws doesn't mean you have to get your goodies for free. You can build whole networks using LDAP instead of AD, for example, or use a Samba domain controller, for which you have to pay no CALs.

      Skype is no longer dominant. GitHub is - but in a different way than Google Search for example, or WhatsApp. Even StackOverflow is dominant, today. But I have all my code on my private servers without issues, while it's a bit difficult to replicate a serch engine locally, or run you own messaging platform.

      "Microsoft is the all-seeing-eye"

      Can it read GMail mails and Facebook messages? That's a privacy issue, anyway, not an antitrust one.

      "They obviously never had to buy an OEM license back in the day just to own a PC."

      They have been near breakup in 1996, did you forget it? You really have to bring back an issue of thirty years ago? Can I buy a Apple product without an Apple OS - or install an Apple OS on a device of my choice, or get a phone with no operating system installed?

      1. Alumoi Silver badge

        Re: "AD requires a CAL which means its not financially viable"

        Can you buy a PC without the Windows tax?

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: "AD requires a CAL which means its not financially viable"

          Yes, you can. Manufacturers get to choose how they go about it, but some have chosen to sell some of their products with Linux instead of Windows with a corresponding reduction to the price. Dell and Lenovo have done this, but only for specific machines in their lineup. You can of course purchase from a company that specifically focuses on Linux machines, of which there are several.

          1. Rol

            Re: "AD requires a CAL which means its not financially viable"

            Or build your own bespoke PC, which many people already do. Even those who are not that IT savvy can cobble together a pretty decent machine.

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: "AD requires a CAL which means its not financially viable"

          I did - by purchasing the individual parts. Did it about a year ago, a 6-core AMD Ryzen based system.

          It's running FreeBSD 12 with Mate desktop.

          (most of the parts were from Amazon though... a few were things I had already (DVD, case), and some parts came from Frys [power supply, extra fans])

        3. IGotOut Silver badge

          Re: "AD requires a CAL which means its not financially viable"

          "Can you buy a PC without the Windows tax?"

          Little company called Dell do this.

          BTW it often costs the same with many manufacturers because they are special orders, not mass produced off the shelf images....then there is the OEM crap they often get paid to install.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: "AD requires a CAL which means its not financially viable"

        while it's a bit difficult to replicate a serch engine locally

        for UN-BIASED global internet search, you'd need to have some pretty good storage and bandwidth available.

        I suggested to Fox News that they do a competing service to Google and Bing, to offer unbiased searching of news-related articles. Still waiting. [if I had the funding _I_ would do a no-track no-filter service of this nature]

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like the case against Apple

    Is that they don't have a checkbox, "Allow installation of apps from other sources". If it were me, I'd have that code ready and waiting for release, in time to pull the rug from under any possible enforced remedies.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like the case against Apple

      If you look at how long the antitrust cases against AT&T, IBM, Intel and Microsoft took in the courts, I don't think Apple needs to worry about having that on hand until the latter part of this decade at the earliest. And if you look at how little action was taken against them, they might not have to change anything or the remedy could look different at the end of the whole process.

      What Apple would need to do in the meantime is effectively turn iOS into a hypervisor, and make every app run inside a separate VM so it can't possibly touch another app or the OS except through defined methods. That way the security risk of untrusted apps (and trusted apps that get bad stuff through the App Store review process) is eliminated.

      Yes, they would still lose the 30% cut on apps installed from those sources, but the vast majority of Apple customers would stick with the App Store and not use other methods just like the majority of Android customers currently do despite having the option.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like the case against Apple

        "What Apple would need to do in the meantime is effectively turn iOS into a hypervisor, and make every app run inside a separate VM so it can't possibly touch another app or the OS except through defined methods."

        They already did that. The primary worries about an insecure app is that it might find a vulnerability in that hypervisor, which has happened several times, or that they might find a valuable sandbox that allows access to lots of things. For example, if they get into a sandbox which already has access to contacts, the global filesystem, and the microphones, the insecure code doesn't have to escape the sandbox to do malicious things. To the extent that Apple's review is focused on real security scanning, this is the kind of thing they want to prevent.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Sounds like the case against Apple

          No they didn't. The "sandbox" does not offer the level of protection a hypervisor does. It is simple process isolation, and the filesystem isolation relies on permissions - all apps see the same /sbin, /usr/share and so forth.

          In a hypervisor they all have their own filesystem (all of them would share inodes so it wouldn't waste space) If an app in a hypervisor was able to leverage an exploit and get root and write somewhere it shouldn't the changes would only be visible to that app, minimizing its impact. With the current container based sandboxing, if it was able to make a change to a part of the filesystem it shouldn't it would immediately be visible to all other apps.

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like the case against Apple

      Even then it's a bit of a non case...

      “In the absence of competition, Apple’s monopoly power over software distribution to iOS devices has resulted in harms to competitors and competition, reducing quality and innovation among app developers, and increasing prices and reducing choices for consumers.”

      I can see it increasing pricing, except that there are relatively few apps that I buy anyway. Most of the important ones are free, but to use them requires that you have access to the rather expensive hardware they control.

      I can see it reducing choice

      To suggest that it reduces quality you'd have to compare the quality of an average iPhone app with an average Android app - and a good one of each, and a poor one of each...

      I'm not so sure that one will hold up.

  10. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    “the decline of trustworthy sources of news"

    That's rich coming from a country that allows Fox News to broadcast.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: “the decline of trustworthy sources of news"

      There are 2 Fox News like stations starting up in the UK shortly...

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: “the decline of trustworthy sources of news"

        @ a/c "There are 2 Fox News like stations starting up in the UK shortly."

        Unlike the US, the UK has regulations when it comes to unbiased news.

        RT and TalkRadio have both been fined in the past for this offence.

    2. Martin Gregorie

      Re: “the decline of trustworthy sources of news"

      Back in the mid '70s when I was working in NYC I don't remember any reliable source of news apart from the New York Times. The other papers were pretty much dross and so was radio and TV news.

      For that matter, I still have a clear memory of visiting a friend in LA in the early 80s. The UK Govt (Kinnock?) had done anything pretty significant that I'd heard headlines about before hopping on a plane in NZ, so we watched the ABC news after arriving in LA. In an hour's news there were four main stories. Three were strictly local news (one was about a store catching fire in Ventura) that might have made regional news in the Beeb and the fourth was something Gubbermental in Washington DC - and even that was treated like the BBC would cover German or French political stuff. This 'news' occupied the first 10 minutes of the hour. The other 50 minutes was sport coverage and adverts.

      Long story short: with very few exceptions (NYT, Washington Post) I don't believe the USA has had any reliable news services since the late 60s.

      1. Steve Todd

        Re: “the decline of trustworthy sources of news"

        My experience while holidaying in the US is that their idea of international news is what’s happening in other US states. They have very little idea of what’s happened in the rest of the world.

        1. HellDeskJockey

          Re: “the decline of trustworthy sources of news"

          That is why some of us yanks listen to the BBC. Actually I usually get my news via Internet these days. Unless you are looking for the Democrat point of view most US news sources are generally useless.

          1. Steve Todd

            Re: “the decline of trustworthy sources of news"

            I think you can safely say that there isn’t a non-partisan source of news, not that it’s Democrat only (there seem to be plenty of sources that have a heavy Republican bias, or even further to the right). Saying that, even the Democrats are right wing compared to most european parties.

  11. ThatOne Silver badge

    Textbook FUD from the FUD textbook

    > would kill off independent retailers and punish consumers by forcing small businesses out of popular online stores, raising prices, and reducing consumer choice and convenience.

    They forgot about how it would cause orphans to starve and kittens to be run over. Or, maybe more actual, help Covid-19 to spread. You wouldn't want any of this, would you - So why would you want big monopolies to be temporary vaguely split up?

    Seriously, sometimes I regret not having pursued a career in PR, they really don't wear themselves out. "Just use excuse #3, that should do".

  12. martinusher Silver badge

    ...and how well did that work out for us?

    I might be a bit out of sync with modern thinking but I actually think that breaking up Ma Bell was a retrograde step with disastrous consequences for the country as a whole. Sure, it provided lots of shorter term profits for everyone involved, Baby Bells, upstart Telcos and so on, but the price as a nation paid for it is that we eventually lost our leadership in, and ability to develop, communications infrastructure. This is at the core of our government's attacks on Huawei, SMIC and other Chinese technology vendors. We've realized too late that we're now dependent on foreign vendors for critical infrastructure and, worse still, we've dissipated the resources needed to develop and maintain that infrastructure. We've decided, Micawber like, to optimistcally assume that "Something will turn up" because it always seemed to happen in the past. It won't.

    The present Internet companies don't need breaking up -- they're not single business units, anyway -- but they do need the same kind of oversight that was once given to the phone companies. Implicit in the break up of Ma Bell was deregulation, a big thing of the 1980s, but that never worked out that well -- after a token effort at competition the disparate businesses consolidated into a handful of effective monopolies resulting in everyone paying more for less (but we're used to it now and many of us are too young to know any different). Let's not make the same mistake again. We need to recognize the social responsibilities these companies have, codify it and enforce it as the price for them being able to be profitable businesses. Part of that social responsilbitiy is to further and finance research, part of it is to be universal and affordable and part of it is to avoid using their power and influcene directly on their customers.

    1. Rol

      Re: ...and how well did that work out for us?

      Here in little ol' Blighty we had the General Post Office (GPO), which held the monopoly on all letter and parcel services, Post Office Counters, and telephony.

      Such was their grip on British infrastructure, and such was the political grip on their revenue expenditure, that telephony development struggled to keep up, even when measured against goat based economies.

      True, given the freedom and money to go for it, they cobbled together the first electronically programmable computer in the world, many years before the pretenders to that throne locked horns, but that political will, to operate at the cutting edge, is seldom found in Westminster.

      It wasn't until the monopoly was broken up and British Telecom became a thing, that innovation started being delivered to the Great British public. Prices started to fall, and the service started to improve. Even the operators who were all direct decedents of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, started being replaced by normal humans.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm a bit of a socialist, and prefer natural monopolies to be owned by the nation they serve, and at one time, telephony did appear to fall into that category, but technology has given us many more options and therefore competition has flourished and delivered.

      If Ma Bell had continued, would America now be enjoying the fruits of modern communications, or the luke warm offerings of an organisation that has had no imperative to advance any faster than its political puppeteers would allow at their annual budget horse trading contest?

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: ...and how well did that work out for us?

        but that political will, to operate at the cutting edge, is seldom found in Westminster. ..... RoI

        Do you know if it is also seldom offered, RoI, to be remote, relatively anonymous third party peer commanded and controlled? And would it look like, or appear greatly dissimilar to such a treat, which many may fear to be almost threatening, as is clearly enough delivered within the confines of a freely shared Registered Post?

        Are such things, by their very particular and peculiar nature, easily recognised or easily disguised?

        1. Rol

          Re: ...and how well did that work out for us?

          I yearn for a million pounds, but am not sufficiently motivated to suffer the personal costs I would likely have to endure to get it. And similarly, Westminster might yearn for cutting edge tech, but is unwilling to stump up the money to have it.

          The political will to buy into high tech surveillance gear, to better manage us rowdy proles, most probably exists, but in most other facets of our economy, our government is quite happy to run with whatever is the cheapest option, regardless of whether it works or not.

          I hope I have responded appropriately to your comment, as I've forgotten most of the Martian language phrases I learned in my youth, in preference to Beelzebubbian, so I might better understand how the current shower of shite in Westminster intends to drag the nation to the doors of Hell.

          1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            Re: ...and how well did that work out for us? The Bullindon Club must be crying a river

            Messages received and appropriately perfectly understood, RoI.

            And it's such a pain, is it not, to watch *the current shower of shite in Westminster* failing so spectacularly to act Oscarly on the global stage. Do they blame their SpAds and leading mentors to try and escape responsibility and accountability for their own serial incompetence and ignorant indifference to the myriad mountainous inequities surrounding their so oft childishly arrogant and cringingly self-aggrandising sub-prime performances?

            Or are they really all figuratively at sea struggling to stay afloat in a Titanic boat in the Spooky World of Reanimative Seers and NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTivated IT Peers? And that is a rhetorical question.

            Re *----* ...... Now that's certainly colourful, with many saying to an unfortunately too accurate a degree

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: ...and how well did that work out for us?

      The problem with the Bell break up was the complete corruption of the US political system.

      What you had was on huge monopoly broken up into small localised monopolies.

      Rather than choice of suppliers, you just had defacto supplier for one city or county. Lawsuits and back handers ensured competition is kept to a minimum.

    3. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: ...and how well did that work out for us?

      > deregulation [...] never worked out that well

      And why do you presume lack of deregulation would had worked better?

      A huge established monopoly is never a motor for innovation or improvement. It only does those things while it tries to establish itself and eliminate the competition. After all (to quote Terry Pratchett), "the goal isn't to provide the best service, but to provide the only service". If you're the only choice available, why make any effort?

  13. Pirate Dave Silver badge


    "Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google"

    But STILL no Microsoft? Well fuck me. Bunch of tossers...

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like