There are several trends in today’s tech landscape that I find worrying, and at first glance they seem to be a varied set: mass online surveillance; the erosion of net neutrality; and web giants that are growing in a seemingly unstoppable way. However, I’ve come to realize they all have something in common.
All of them — including the rise of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) — are anti-competitive in one way or another. In their respective fields, all the trends I’m about to discuss create the potential for a monolithic, monopolistic player to block the rise of new entrants and ensure its long-term dominance. Each case involves an over-concentration of power that becomes deeply threatening to plurality and progress.
The inclusion of state surveillance in that lineup may surprise you, but I believe it fits and I’ll explain why in a moment. First, let’s examine those of my worries that more traditionally fit into the context of competition, so you can see where I’m going with this.
Predators and behemoths
When I heard of the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, my first thought was that in a market where you already have a...