President Joe Biden issued a sweeping executive order on Friday urging government agencies to begin adopting reforms across the technology spectrum, including the reintroduction of net neutrality, the enforcement of broadband competition, the adoption of “right to repair” laws and more.
According to a fact sheet published by the White House, several aspects of the order will directly affect consumers and how they use technology. Below we have summarized the executive order and stated how its content can affect consumers’ daily lives.
(The order appears, when published, in the Federal Register of Notices.)
However, it is worth noting that the order simply “instructs”
Here is how the provisions of the executive order may affect you:
Net neutrality and lower broadband fees
The city’s executive order lists four major topics that cover broadband, but the headliner is net neutrality. Major ISPs can use their power to slow down online services, order fact sheet notes. The net neutrality movement came in 2015, when the FCC voted to reclassify broadband as a public assistance program in Title II. The Trump administration worked under FCC President Ajit Pai to reverse these rules.
“In the executive order, the president calls on the FCC to restore the rules of net neutrality, which are regretted by the previous administration,” the statement said.
Lack of competition among broadband providers in apartments
If you live in an apartment, your landlord typically decides which ISP you want to use. More than 200 million Americans already live in neighborhoods that have access to only one or two ISPs, the administration claims. The order apparently avoids enforcing more competition in different markets, but will encourage the FCC to prevent ISPs from entering into agreements with landlords that restrict tenant choice. Competition would give consumers choices, both in terms of services and price.
Clarity about broadband charges
Broadband providers can advertise a price, but you rarely pay it. Instead, tackle the various fees that appear in your bill. The Obama administration implemented a “broadband nutrition label” that sought to explain and break down these fees. The FCC is urged to bring it back, the order says. It may not lower your bill, but it may motivate ISPs to trim fees and further encourage price competition.
Right to repair, including mobile phones
Tractors and other agricultural equipment manufacturers to limit farmers’ ability to repair their own tractors may be dominant in the news, but the right to repair also covers technological products, including laptops and mobile phones. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act made it illegal to circumvent locks or other restrictions placed by a manufacturer on a device, even though section 1201 of the bill provides for the right to request exceptions, such as unlocking cell phones.
The executive order specifically names mobile phone manufacturers and workshops as covered by the order. The executive order “calls on the FTC to issue anti-competitive rules for the use of independent workshops or the performance of DIY repairs on your own devices and equipment.” It will free you up to carry out your own repairs and theoretically give workshops greater breadth – although how much more than today it is not clear. iFixit, which has carried the tax on the right to repair, has its own roof.
Big Tech: Your data, their mergers
The Biden order is also taking a big turn at Big Tech, specifically “big platforms” that are not specifically named (such as Google or Facebook). The executive order will encourage the FTC to “establish rules on monitoring and accumulation of data”, but what effect this would have on the accumulation of data, Facebook, Microsoft, Google and other collectors is uncertain.
The Biden administration’s order also calls for a “greater control of mergers”, likely those like Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram or WhatsApp to expand its reach. The administration will further investigate mergers, “particularly of dominant Internet platforms, with particular attention to the emergence of emerging competitors, serial mergers, data accumulation, competition from ‘free’ products and impact on users’ privacy,” the fact sheets states.
The order also encourages the FTC to look at how large technology companies study, copy and then eventually shut down smaller competitors by reproducing their products or services.
Wi-Fi for flights
Have you ever boarded a flight, paid for Wi-Fi and then discovered that it either did not work or was simply too slow to be useful? The order specifically calls this and asks the Department of Transportation to order airlines to refund fees “when baggage is delayed or when service is not actually provided – such as when the aircraft’s WiFi or in-flight entertainment system is broken,” fact sheet notes.
Non-compete agreements where a company tries to prevent you in the contract from leaving and joining a competitor are common in the technology industry. While non-compete agreements are banned in California, Biden’s order asks the FTC to ban them completely.
For many, a hearing aid is less of a technical gadget and more of a necessity. But the price – $ 5,000 or so, according to the Biden Administration – is not always covered by health insurance, and Consumers should buy them from a healthcare professional. The administration would open this up for sale without a prescription, which would likely allow hearing aids to join the range of cheap earphones and other technical gadgets produced cheaply abroad.
The executive order also calls on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to issue rules that allow customers to download their bank data and take it with them.
This story was updated at. 14.43 with further details.