President Donald Trump has talked of a “huge anti-trust problem” with Amazon — the company promising thousands of paychecks in Johnson and Wyandotte counties.
He’s moved to rework immigration rules in ways that might make it harder to bring specially trained workers into the country — critical to outfits like big tech employers Garmin and Cerner.
His choice to head the Federal Communications Commission has pushed for looser rules governing telecommunications — perhaps changing the dynamics of the wireless business for Sprint.
As the days of the Trump presidency move into triple digits, the chief executive has delivered an at-best hazy sense of how he’d like to regulate, or deregulate, the fast-changing tech landscape.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
His campaign left regulations of the sector mostly unmentioned. His presidency appears, although it began with a White House tech summit, to be either avoiding them or outsourcing the president’s policies to business-friendly conservatives.
That lack of clarity comes as tech creeps ever deeper into our lives and commerce.
Think about rules governing companies that provide you internet service. The Obama administration stood, if inconsistently, for net neutrality — the idea that all traffic on the web should be treated equally.
The internet as you know it has worked on that principle. It’s why your cable or cellphone company can’t block or slow down data from one app or website to favor rivals that have paid for express-lane treatment. So when AT&T excluded its own video app from cellphone data caps, it ran into trouble with the FCC.
Trump’s FCC boss, Ajit Pai, in late April moved to undo some Obama-era net neutrality rules. The broadband industry likes that. It says the rules that stand in the way of being able to charge Netflix, Hulu or some future app for special delivery privileges discourage investment in better broadband.
Most wireless companies want to ditch net neutrality, as well. And they object to being treated by the same rules as cable companies.
Sprint’s position is different.
CEO Marcelo Claure has said dumping the regulation would help industry leaders Verizon and AT&T “drive us out of business.”
The two big players are gobbling up content providers such as DirecTV and AOL. In a net neutrality-free world, those acquisitions could give VIP treatment for their programming companies. The big guys could bulk up even more, leaving Sprint looking that much scrawnier.
Meantime, Trump has yet to nominate new policymakers to the FCC, leaving in doubt which direction the agency might head.
Pai has argued for reclassifying internet carriers for regulation by the Federal Trade Commission. Its powers are weaker, able to punish a company for bad behavior after a violation rather than forbidding it ahead of time.
All that makes the tech regulation at least as uncertain 100-days-and-counting as when Trump first started tweeting from the White House on Day One.