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Google Top Spender on Lobbying in US, Spent $21.7 Million in 2018

Amazon and Facebook also reached record levels of lobbying expenditures in 2018

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Google has been the top spender on lobbying for two consecutive years. Pixabay

Tech giant Google spent $21.7 million on lobbying efforts last year to influence lawmakers as the government and regulators sought great scrutiny from tech companies related to users’ privacy and unfair market practices.

According to a CNBC report on Sunday, Google has been the top spender on lobbying for two consecutive years.

“Amazon and Facebook also reached record levels of lobbying expenditures in 2018,” said the report, quoting the Centre for Responsive Politics.

Amazon spent $14.4 million on lobbying while Facebook spent $12.6 million. Microsoft spent $9.6 million and Apple $6.68 million in 2018.

Google, Lobbying, US
Tech giant Google spent $21.7 million on lobbying efforts last year to influence lawmakers .VOA

In a stern warning to tech giants earlier this month, the US House’s anti-trust committee opened probes into Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon and other firms to determine if they prevent competition and hurt consumers.

“The open Internet has delivered enormous benefits to Americans, including a surge of economic opportunity, massive investment, and new pathways for education online,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler was quoted as saying.

“But there is growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content, and communications,” he added.

According to The New York Times, the Department of Justice (DoJ) will handle Apple and Google while the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will take on Facebook and Amazon.

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“Silicon Valley has faced fierce criticism in recent years over disinformation, privacy breaches and the misuse of data. President Trump regularly criticises the power of the companies, as do several Democrats running for president,” said the report.

Facebook is already under investigation by the US FTC over its handling of user data. The social networking platform is expecting a fine of up to $5 billion.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the FTC previously closed an investigation of Google without taking action but now the DOJ will take another look into Google’s practices in Search and other areas. (IANS)

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US Sanctions on Cuba Deterring American Firms from Exploring Its Telecommunications Sector

It remains unclear how open it would be to U.S. investment in the strategic telecoms sector

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US, Cuba, American Firms
FILE - Cubans check their phones at an internet hotspot in Havana, Cuba, Aug. 10, 2018. VOA

U.S. sanctions on Cuba are deterring American firms from exploring its telecommunications sector even as Washington seeks to expand internet access on the Communist-run island, according to the final report of a U.S. government task force released on Tuesday.

Chinese companies dominate Cuba’s telecoms sector, a status quo “worth challenging given concerns that the Cuban government potentially obtains its censorship equipment from Chinese Internet infrastructure providers,” the report said.

Cuba’s government protested the U.S. State Department’s creation of a Cuba Internet Task Force last year as “foreign interference.” It remains unclear how open it would be to U.S. investment in the strategic telecoms sector.

“U.S. companies informed the subcommittees they are often deterred from entering the market due to uncertainty caused by frequent changes to U.S. regulations concerning Cuba,” according to the task force, convened last year by the State Department.

US, Cuba, American Firms
U.S. sanctions on Cuba are deterring American firms from exploring its telecommunications sector. Pixabay

U.S. presidents have successively tightened and loosened the decades-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba imposed in the years after its 1959 revolution.

Former President Barack Obama created a loophole for U.S. telecommunications companies to provide certain services to Cuba. His successor, Donald Trump, maintained the loophole but tightened the broader sanctions, worsening the overall business climate.

Banks are increasingly reluctant to process payments originating in Cuba. Some telecoms firms surveyed by the task force said that was putting them off offering key services and products in the country.

The task force advised the U.S. government to clear up the regulatory uncertainty and seek feedback on how to improve telecoms firms’ ability to invest.

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Until 2013, the internet was largely available to the public in Cuba only at tourist hotels amid the U.S. embargo, lack of cash and concerns over the free flow of information.

The government has increased web access in recent years, installing a fiber-optic cable to Venezuela and introducing cyber cafes, Wi-Fi hot spots and mobile internet.

Cuban telecoms monopoly ETECSA signed a deal earlier this year with Alphabet’s Google on increasing connectivity, but the two have not publicly agreed on any significant investments. (VOA)