Google, an Obama ally, may face policy setbacks under Trump

Thu Nov 17, 2016 9:14pm EST
 
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By David Shepardson, Malathi Nayak and Julia Love

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O: Quote) Google faces a tougher regulatory landscape as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's incoming administration looks poised to reverse Obama administration policies that often favored the internet giant in the company's battles with telecoms and cable heavyweights, analysts say.

Google had close ties with outgoing Democratic President Barack Obama's administration, and its employees donated much more to defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton than to the Republican Trump.

In the most concrete sign yet that the tech policy balance may be tipping in favor of telecom firms ahead of Trump's presidency, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday halted action on contentious regulatory reform measures opposed by companies such as AT&T Inc (T.N: Quote) and CenturyLink Inc.(CTL.N: Quote)

In addition, the commission is now expected to reject FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's high-profile proposal to open up the $20 billion market for rented pay-TV set-top boxes, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. That measure would have dealt a big blow to cable companies and created an opening for firms such as Google and Apple Inc. (AAPL.O: Quote)

Obama had thrown his support behind the initiative, a move AT&T decried as an improper intervention on behalf of what it called a "Google proposal."

"Google has been much more actively involved in this than Apple has," said Jan Dawson, analyst at Jackdaw Research. "I'm not sure it's critical to Google's business at all that it be allowed to provide these next generation set-top boxes, but there was a business opportunity there."

Cable companies have expressed concerns that rivals like Google or Apple could create devices or apps and insert their own content or advertising in cable content.

The FCC's moves came a day after Republican lawmakers urged Wheeler, a Democrat, to avoid any contested regulations in the waning days of the Obama administration, saying new rules would be subject to review by the incoming Republican-led Congress and Trump's administration and "could create confusion if reversed."   Continued...

 
The Google logo adorns the entrance of Google Germany headquarters in Hamburg, Germany July 11, 2016. Picture taken July 11, 2016. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen