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2021’s Top Tech Policy Stories in Review with Jonathan Make

2021’s Top Tech Policy Stories in Review with Jonathan Make

Scott Wallsten:

Hi, and welcome back to Two Think Minimum, the Technology Policy Institute’s podcast. Today is Monday, January 31st, 2022. I’m Scott Wallsten, President of the Technology Policy Institute, and I’m here with my co-host Sarah Oh, who is a Senior Fellow at TPI. And today, we’re delighted to have our guest Jonathan Make, for our, I think, third annual year in review. 

Jonathan is currently Executive Editor at Warren Communications, which includes Comm Daily, where he’s also a journalist. He joined the Warren Communications staff in 2005 after covering the industry at Bloomberg, and after moving to Washington in 2003 to research the FCC as part of a master’s degree in Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. It sounds like you never stopped researching it. He’s immediate past President of the Society of Professional Journalists, Local Chapter. Welcome back, Jonathan.

Jonathan Make:

Excellent to be here. It’s definitely been three, maybe even four years, and we’ve had a shifting roster of personnel. We had Dave Kaut, who now is at Capital Forum, the first year, and I’m pleased to be back. I’m only sorry that yet again, we’re doing it virtually because we’re so close to being able to do it in person.

Scott Wallsten:

Right, hopefully, maybe this will be the last virtual one. So, since we’re at this sort of a year in review, why don’t we start with the easiest question to ask, but maybe the hardest one to answer. What do you think is the most consequential thing that happened in telecom policy last year or tech policy? 

Jonathan Make:

Well, we were just chatting a little bit about the election. That is the election of 2020, and we’re still seeing the effects of that. And in fact, I’m glad you brought up this question because it also goes to the issue of not yet having quite a full complement of commissioners at the FCC or the FTC. Congress, the Senate, specifically in the Commerce Committee, are working on it, and possibly in the next few weeks we could have a full complement of commissioners. It’s been very interesting, just, you know, as an observer. I’m not even writing about it. 

Certainly, my colleagues are watching what is happening with all of the behind-the-scenes issues with particularly Gigi Sohn. And also, I’m so sorry. I’m forgetting Mr. Bedoya’s first name from Georgetown, who would be the last FTC commissioner, and Gigi Sohn would go to the FCC, and then also not so long ago, Jessica Rosenworcel got a full new term at the FCC, and she of course, was named by President Biden after a very lengthy delay, the permanent chair of the FCC.

So, there’s been a lot of moving pieces there, and these are just a few of them. And then to top it all off, we now have Alan Davidson really just a couple weeks, just since we’ve been talking about doing this podcast amongst ourselves, he is now heading NTIA. Which according to my colleague, Jimm Phillips, has been without any permanent head since approximately May of 2019, when David Redl left. That is a very, very long time for our land of telecom and tech to have that position vacant for such a long time, and there have been a number of non-permanent administrators, and so this will put an end to it. Now, there will be a permanent head.

Scott Wallsten:

Okay. So, there’s a whole lot of stuff in there. Let’s start with the FCC. Jessica Rosenworcel is now chair, but she’s still got to work with a two-two split at the FCC. Gigi Sohn has had to be renominated and now there may be a vote on her in committee soon. What is the real hold up with Gigi? I mean, over the last week, the controversy has been her involvement with Locast and she said she would recuse herself from retransmission consent issues. Is that really the sticking point, or opponents sort of just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks?

Jonathan Make:

It’s interesting that you phrased it that way. The last part of the off this is Locast kind of coming back, at least in the public policy discussion. It reminds me a little bit of Aereo. Different service but went to the Supreme Court. It was shut down, and that was kind of the end of it. I think a lot of us thought we had seen the end of the Locast retransmission service, so you could get local TV streamed to you. I think it was free. She did get caught up in that. You know, my understanding, just from talking to a couple players in the industry about this, yeah, sure. It’s about more than Locast, which is shuttered. I don’t think they’ve definitively said it will be no more, but certainly this incarnation was shut and had to pay a settlement to the terrestrial broadcast rather than to broadcast networks over potentially infringing their copyright.

So yeah, the tip of the spear here with her has been that she should not be active at the FCC, or any regulatory body, but here we’re talking about the FCC, intellectual property, because this was very much an intellectual property issue that could have had one ranging effects. Again, the service ended up shutting, but it was operational for some time. So, that gave opponents of her other potential policies, whether it’s broadcast ownership with NAB, or apparently some in the cable industry, that would be more about net neutrality and other things having to do with broadband. And so, yes, I think that you could say that this one somewhat narrow issue may have become a proxy or a litmus test for other issues where you saw many other industries getting involved, and you even saw the National Association of Broadcasters publicly saying that they and their members had concerns. The latest is they said we’re okay because she agreed to a recusal from really any of these IP issues for at least I think four years.

Scott Wallsten:

And I guess maybe it’s a different conversation, but that kind of implies that the NAB, the broadcasters, would prefer the status quo over any possible changes because the FCC is likely to either pass something that’s not controversial or be deadlocked.

Jonathan Make:

That’s a good point. I think it is broadly accurate that when it comes to retransmission consent, which is part of intellectual property, and then probably copyright and IP a little more broadly, when it comes to the FCC, the incumbents would probably prefer, and certainly in this case, TV stations, would probably that things not change. And that’s true, if it was divided along party lines or there were any sort of regulatory action would not proceed. I honestly think that when you dig into it, it’s kind of escaping me at the moment what the different flavors of really getting into the weeds and the policy are. But when you dig into it, it’s probably a lot more complex than that. 

On the flip side, I don’t think, no one I’m aware of, and I don’t think a lot of people my colleagues spoke with thought that even if you had Gigi Sohn confirmed and recused in any way, I don’t think the FCC in the next several years, you know, under this Biden administration and even if he gets a second term, I don’t think they were expected to do very much on retransmission consent or even for that matter, arguably I won’t say more important, but maybe a little bit more technologically updated, even on the, what constitutes a cable provider and then all of the issues that come from that, because that has to do more with streaming.

And does FCC have any sort of purview over any of that and who pays franchisees? And we can talk all day about that. 

Scott Wallsten:

I mean, retransmission consent is still a big deal and it’s a lot of money and controversial, but it does feel a little bit like stepping back 10 years to talk about it. It’s certainly not at the top of the agenda anymore,

Jonathan Make:

For sure. I mean the docket, let’s just take the docket, or one of them, that Gigi Sohn recused herself from. Don’t quote me. I mean, you won’t quote me, but do your research listeners. 

Scott Wallsten:

Off the record public podcast.

Jonathan Make:

Right? Yes. I believe the docket is 10-71, and the reason I say that is her recusal letter mentioned it. So, what that means is just this particular proceeding began in 2010. So, that is 12 years ago, again, just for this particular proceeding. So, that might indicate something.

Scott Wallsten:

So, do you think her opponents have resigned themselves to her being the fifth commissioner, or is there more fight left in them?

Jonathan Make:

Well, the Republicans, and these are more the Republican legislators, in particular on the Commerce Committee, but possibly also just, you know, in the Senate, certainly a number of them have said they still have concerns. And even with this recusal, they still have concerns. Whether it’s about the terms of the confidential settlement that Locast entered into with the, I believe it’s, you know, the major TV networks, the big four, the big three as it were, or other aspects of what Gigi Sohn might do, which could include things like net neutrality and all of the different fallout from that, should there be a return to the classification that we did have under President Obama. This is where you get into the whole ping pong of policy, and nonetheless, again, from what we’re reporting, and a lot of this is just based on reading my colleague, Jimm Phillips, and then some of my colleagues on the FCC at Comm Daily, not to mention a lot of the other publications in our space, probably she will be confirmed. It might be a party line vote by the Commerce Committee. And then she’ll presumably be up for a floor vote, so she could have a path to being approved. And same with Mr. Bedoya. Now his issues, I think, are a lot different. Although, I do think there’s some Republican concern there as well.  

Scott Wallsten:

Before we go to him, let’s talk a little bit more about the FCC. What do you think have been chair Rosenworcel’s biggest accomplishments and failures over the last year, recognizing of course, that she spent most of the time as acting chair, which limited what she could do, and you know, having to deal with a two-two commission, which also limited what she could do, but still, within those constraints, what do you think she did and didn’t get done?

Jonathan Make:

Yeah, that’s a great question. Not having given a lot of forethought to it, I would say, just off the cuff, her success, I would just say overall that she’s run the place, she’s run it well, she’s named the right staffers to the right places, even if they too were there on an interim basis. And the two Republican FCC Commissioners had been very complimentary of her. I really think that that has been a strong suit of her’s, probably in particular. I think if you took some of the other personalities of different chairman, it would really be chairman, over the years. I think some of them also could have achieved that with the two-two split, but certainly not all of them. In terms of failures, that’s more of a judgment call. What we certainly hear from the people, you know, my colleagues and I speak to in the industry and even in the public interest and other stakeholder communities, is we wish she did more.

And I think that kind of goes to the first thing, which is her biggest success. She’s limited in what she can do. So, there’ve been a lot of monthly agency meetings where, you know, not a lot controversial is getting done, but again, the work of the place is getting done. Now speaking, perhaps kind of more attuned to what my profession generally wants. I think you could say, I’m not sure, you know, whose [inaudible] would lay it, but perhaps the failure of the FCC overall, or at least something where it has gotten criticism and continues to get criticism, is during the pandemic when things moved to, and so far have mostly been remained virtual, at the FCC. They have not been as open of an agency when it comes to dealing with the public and mainly dealing with journalists as proxies for the public. So, we have seen a couple of the FCC commissioners, not the a chairwoman, sorry, I should not call her chairman.

She prefers to go by chairwoman. There have been, I believe one Democrat and one Republican commissioner. They really haven’t done any press conferences for instance, during the pandemic. And this is like two years now. So, this is not a short amount of time. This is a long amount of time. For, I believe the first year of the pandemic, the FCC did none or very few news conferences. This is something we wrote several very lengthy stories about talking to experts and all of that. And so only really belatedly did they start to do that. For a while, the staff at the commission were not ever appearing in public answering questions, all those sorts of things. So, things are better now. We have the chairwoman doing a monthly news conference and we also have Commissioner Carr, who I am pretty sure throughout the pandemic, he’s one of the two Republican commissioners, does a news conference essentially every month.

And he might have stopped him for a month or two, but that’s continued. So, that does have effects on the communications, telecom, and even technology community on the whole. I would say, by the same token, one thing that the chairwoman of the FTC has been doing, maybe this can be a segue to talk about that, is she has done meetings where they do announce beforehand the items they’re going to vote on. And then they actually have, they’re virtual, but they are public meetings. And that, that was something she started, I believe, right when Chairwoman Khan started there. And so I think that has certainly been one plus for transparency in our area.

Scott Wallsten:

Would you say it’s comparable to the way it was before the pandemic? Is it better? Is there still… do they still have some ways to go?

Jonathan Make:

At the FTC, better from a transparency point of view. At the FCC, not as good, better than it was at maybe the worst of the pandemic when at least the FCC was still figuring out how to do this, but they definitely even lagged, even at the local government level or the state government level, where certainly these entities had figured out how to do these sorts of things and they still had not. And again, some commissioners just have stopped doing these news conferences overall. And what that means is, you know, members of the Communications Bar, the public activist groups, they are not learning as much as they might if reporters are able to ask them questions.

Scott Wallsten:

Will they continue to improve? Or is this a problem that’s going to get worse over time? Because once you keep things private, people like to, you know, once something becomes private people like to keep them private.

Jonathan Make:

Right. And I was, I just happened to be interviewed about this as part of a story that someone is, you know, a much bigger story that someone is writing. I can tell you the trend is generally once any institution stops doing something that has to do with the public or reporters or external communications, rarely does it start again. However, if I had to guess, I have no information on this, if, I think it’s a big if. If the commission, I mean, presumably at some point it will be, and I it’s a big if because of the pandemic, not because of the FCC, but if things get back to, you know, really a pretty normal stage. The commission is in a new building. If they start doing the meetings in person and most people are there in person, yes, it would be interesting to see if some or many of the commissioners go back to doing a monthly press conference. Again, if this is any guide, not all of them will, but some of them certainly will, including the chairwoman.

Who will again, at this point, is certainly doing that. But yeah, in some ways the pandemic, I think hurts this sort of transparency. And frankly, even with fewer conferences, at least that were in person, it can limit some of those conversations and opportunities to ask questions. And again, this even includes people who are lobbying or activists or whatever folks might be doing in this area. I mean, it’s not like the FTC is, you know, meeting in person. Presumably, they don’t think it’s safe yet. And I guess hopefully, in terms of the pandemic, things will get better. And therefore some of these meetings will be able to be in person yet again.

Scott Wallsten:

Well, that’s a good point though. The problems of not being in person. I mean, we don’t bump into people at conferences anymore and you used to be able to talk to, you’d see somebody at a telecom conference from the FCC, and you just know what issues they’re working on and not even talk about particular cases or dockets, but you just sort of know their thinking and we don’t, that doesn’t seem to happen anymore. That’s a loss. 

Jonathan Make:

Right. You’re not going to get the kind of one on one or sidebar, whatever they call them. Certainly, you know, FCBA has done a good job of that is the Federal Communications Bar Association of doing these things virtually, and as have many others, PLI, Practicing Law Institute and whatnot, but sure.

Scott Wallsten:

Before we leave the FCC, continuing on this theme, so California is now allowed to continue its net neutrality law, right? The lower court’s ruling was upheld. What do you think the consequences of that are, is that going to affect the FCC going forward? Will it affect the way ISPs operate? Does California’s net neutrality law become the law of the land effectively?

Jonathan Make:

Those are good questions, and I don’t have all the answers. I think it’s important to note that yes, just this past week, the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals said, “You know, we’re not going to take action now and issue a tentative or preliminary stay or hold on these rules.” I mean, that, of course doesn’t seem to go to, or doesn’t go to the merits, which I can only assume that the case [inaudible] looked at the docket, the case will proceed, you know, in the normal course. So, presumably those things would be considered. You know, interestingly it doesn’t. I haven’t heard anything, and I don’t know that my colleagues have either that, “Hey, this has become a defacto nationwide standard.” That’s interesting because why wouldn’t it be? You know, we hear this for other privacy laws. California is just one of now a few states that has these comprehensive privacy laws.

And there’s a lot of thinking that that does become more of a nationwide effective standard in the absence of anything happening. Now, I would say all expectations are, sticking with the FCC now, that the FCC will, maybe this year when it has a full complement of commissioners, will adopt some sort of net neutrality, at least a rule making proposal. And then after that, they would vote on the final rules that would probably bring back the net neutrality rules that went away in the Trump administration. And so, it would give the agency more authority to, you know, intervene in net neutrality issues. If it thought that providers were, you know, violating the rules. So, it does seem like a good bet that the FCC will do it. For California, I mean, this litigation is not by any stretch of the imagination that I’m aware of done. So, I believe it’s entirely possible that all of this could be undone, but again, odds are the FCC will be acting in any case where there will be more rules where the broadband, the delivery of broadband service to the end, at least residential user, would be considered to be kind of a common carrier service.

Again, if there are violations of the rules would give the agency more authority to act. And some of this is even outside my wheelhouse, but that could even have effects on the FTC. They certainly have, as a whole, all of the commissioners at various times of both political parties have weighed in saying, “Hey, this could have some implications for us as well.” And maybe Scott or Sarah can kind of refresh all of our memories on what the FTC has said about that. But, I think that they want there to be some authority in this area. It might help them, you know, when they act. And that, that would be more on the, you know, someone is misleading in their market thing or something like that.

Scott Wallsten:

Have you spoken with people at ISPs who are worried about the California rule or know that they’ve had to change some kind of behavior because of the California rule? Or is it all kind of not having any big effect?

Jonathan Make:

Yeah, personally, no, and my colleagues, I don’t think so either. Because we haven’t heard big worries doesn’t mean they’re not there. It’s not something I’ve seen reported elsewhere, or heard myself, or that we ourselves at Communications Daily have reported.

Scott Wallsten:

Let’s talk about Bedoya. So, what’s holding up his nomination?

Jonathan Make:

Sure. Well, part of it was that he…

Scott Wallsten:

Not nomination, sorry. Yeah.

Jonathan Make:

Confirmation. 

Scott Wallsten:

Confirmation, right. Sorry.

Jonathan Make:

I never fully understood the procedural way in which, when you take all three nominees again for Jessica Rosenworcel as a renomination to be a member of the FCC, but you take her and Gigi Sohn and Mr. Bedoya, you know, some of them had to go through the process again. Some of them didn’t, and to the extent that any of them had to go through the process again, the president very soon into, it’s not even the section of Congress, because it was the same session of Congress last year, but they kind of recessed into a new calendar year. In any case, so he is up for consideration by the Senate Commerce Committee. The concerns there seem to revolve more around whether he can be truly impartial when it comes to tech companies. You know, for perhaps soon to be Commissioner Sohn, it was more about intellectual property and broadcasters and more kind of some of the legacy companies that the FCC oversees. There were some tweets that he tweeted a number of years ago, and I think that gave Republicans, and again, maybe some in industry who had concerns about what sort of antitrust regulation or enforcement actions he might back. I think it gave them an opportunity to slow things down, and my understanding is that some of the Republicans in the Senate are still concerned. So, he’s proceeding along. I think the thinking is that he may have a party line vote as well by the Senate Commerce Committee. And then he could go to the floor, but I would say very broadly, it’s that he was a privacy activist or advocate. And I didn’t know him personally, but he was with the Georgetown Initiative and might have had other affiliations or kind of a think tank or legal group at Georgetown where he, I would say like Chairwoman Khan, thought that tech companies, and perhaps other companies that fall under the FTCs purview, were not taking enough steps to keep people’s information private if they didn’t want to share it. I mean, there’s all sorts of things where the FTC can get involved. And so, I think for the companies that fall under jurisdiction, which could potentially be essentially any American company or company doing business in the US, they are concerned that there could be stricter rules they could face, or even more often that the FTC might take a harder line in enforcement because of course the FTC is mainly an enforcement body. It is not so much a rulemaking body, although it does have some rulemaking capacity, and indeed, overall, Democrats in Congress and at the FTC often want to see the agency use the use the rulemaking authority that it has to do more to protect privacy. And often the companies that could be adversely affected by that do not want that. 

Scott Wallsten:

But the FTC, like any place, has limited resources. Assuming he gets confirmed, I imagine he would want to do more work on privacy since that’s what his work has been. That’s what he’s known for, but the chair already has a pretty strong agenda, and it’s consistent with his views on privacy, but it’s not focused on privacy. So, do you think having him will make a difference in the direction the FTC is taking? Obviously, you get the votes, the three-two votes, but aside from that, will it continue the way it’s been going?

Jonathan Make:

Right. You could see the FTC take some more divisive actions, and this is just speculation on this next thing I’m going to say, including as it relates to some of the antitrust investigations, what [inaudible] companies, if the staff are, you know, ready to make their recommendations and whatnot, again, because it is an evenly divided agency at this point, I would say that has meant that the chair can do maybe a little less than she would like to do. So, while I couldn’t necessarily say, “Oh, we’ve heard for sure that they’re going to do this or that.” I do think it’s like the FCC where they may do some things that are more controversial. You know, you have even seen now, often some of these partisan divisions start, they often will initially focus on procedural matters, and you have certainly seen that already. Even with the agency being evenly split where the two Republican commissioners have said, you know, we have some problems with different things that the chair kind of does as you know, falls under her purview, under her discretion, and/or things that the agency has approved recently that, you know, again, relate to the full commission, have to vote on certain investigative actions or can staff at the behest of the chairwoman do them.

So again, I couldn’t say which ones, but there are certainly a number of antitrust investigations and studies and whatnot. And writ large, all things equal, having three Democrats makes it more likely that there could be, you know, more action on those.

Scott Wallsten:

Well, since we’re talking about votes, there’s this whole ghost vote issue with Rohit Chopra leaving votes, once he’s gone, what’s the status to that? And in your experience, is this something that’s actually normal or is this really a new phenomenon?

Jonathan Make:

This was new to me. I would say this was not a standard thing, at least that we were aware of. But part of ghost voting in my understanding is that it is not necessarily the most transparent of things. It kind of reminds me of, we’ve had situations where mainly commissioners, it could be other key staff, at an agency are recused from something and not voting, but they’re kind of secretly not voting. And it’s not really clear until often after the fact. This is where yes, Commissioner Chopra, when he was commissioner, before he went to the, I believe he’s now the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which by the way, has a number of alumni that had been back and forth between the FTC and the CFTC. And that’s, you know, continued in this administration. I would say there could be a kind of mind meld there at those agencies.

So, even after he left, yes, his votes apparently were still enforced in things that had not been finalized or made public when he left. I have read other publications writing about it, that it was several items, that it might have been up to a month after he left. And that there could be limitations on this, that perhaps it only, you could only do that for a month. You know, that there was some time limit on the agency can only hold something back for so long when someone votes on it. But yes, it’s definitely unique. 

Here’s something to watch. The Chamber of Commerce has taken a hard line. I think on behalf of its members, with the FTC, it wanted to dig up a lot of information through Freedom of Information Act, which by the way, not just journalists use that. Commercial organizations, all sorts of even researchers use that.

So, it filed a bunch of FOIA requests. It threatened to sue if some of its petitions and other things weren’t granted. So, you know, it’ll be interesting to watch if there’s any litigation over this. It’s definitely unusual. I’ve certainly never heard of anything like this happening before at any agency I’ve covered. 

Scott Wallsten:

Do we know how many votes he left and what they’re on? 

Jonathan Make:

I can only tell you what I saw from spokespeople. And it did seem like it was, again, several things. I couldn’t even tell you offhand what it was on. That’s a great question. I mean, I don’t know. And I certainly don’t think the FTC has really publicized that. I don’t like they want to publicize it. It just didn’t seem very transparent in everything I heard and read about it. 

Scott Wallsten:

I mean, of course knowing nothing about the law. I don’t know if this is right, but, it sure seems like if they’re going to count something as a vote, we should know what that vote is, and why keep it secret if it’s already officially a vote?

Jonathan Make:

Right. I would agree, and again, I have not done the legwork to see if the final thing things they put out show it. I can tell you just from reading about and hearing about it, it definitely it was not clear to stakeholders and experts what was going on. And that’s usually a clue that an agency or any other organization needs to do a better job at being transparent. And certainly, as far as I can see, it was something that was not even discussed until it was brought up by outside parties. There was no proactive disclosure or at least not widespread disclosure of it.

Sarah Oh:

Thanks, Jonathan, for those thoughts. What else do you see coming up in 2022? And what are you working on? Anything new?

Jonathan Make:

Sure. That’s a good question. Did you guys both read, Sarah and Scott, the “Facebook Files” or some of the stories from the Wall Street Journal, for instance. 

Scott Wallsten:

“Facebook Files?” 

Jonathan Make:

I believe it was called the “Facebook Files.” It was this huge data dump from this Facebook whistleblower. There were a couple congressional…. 

Scott Wallsten:

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, of course. Right. 

Jonathan Make:

That’s just what they called it. And, and indeed it was such a big data situation that this Frances, I’m going to mispronounce her last name, but Frances Hogan or Haugen, the whistleblower, even gave the documents to an investigative journalism consortium. And I mean, there was so much reporting. So, the reason I bring that up is although the prospects are very murky for a comprehensive federal privacy law, it’s certainly something where legislators are working hard on it. And I think the question is, can you get both parties to coalesce around a couple particular proposals? And, you know, whenever my colleague Karl Herchenroeder writes about it, you know, legislators from both parties say, “Oh yeah, we’re talking. You know, we think there could be some areas to agree.” So, I just want to point out that privacy is a very big one. We talked about net neutrality, another big issue. The question is will Dish and DirecTV have some sort of merger. And of course, right now, DirectTV isn’t even wholly or solely under AT&T’s roof, or certainly there’s a transaction to separate that. 

Scott Wallsten:

They need a divestiture before they can have a merger.

Jonathan Make:

Exactly. I think that that probably closed, I think, closed around the end of the year, and it was approved. You a TPG, private equity firm involved in taking, I think, a minority stake in it.

I’m just kind of throwing things out to watch. You have probably, in the next several months, I believe that the companies expect to close kind of another divestiture, AT&T having Warner Media or Warner Entertainment, which includes all sorts of content assets, many from Time Warner, which AT&T had a major court fight about acquiring. And eventually after this fight, it ended up winning and acquiring it. Anyway, those are merging with Discovery, you know, one would want to look to see if there are any regulatory conditions there. So, just throwing out these actual transactions and then one that could happen. We have a relatively large landline telecom transaction in much of the country, it involves many states, Lumen, which used to be CenturyLink. So yeah…

Scott Wallsten:

Amazon buying MGM.

Jonathan Make:

Right. That’s something else where the FTC is apparently the agency looking at that, and that transaction was announced quite some time ago. So, yeah.

Scott Wallsten:

There’s been some talk about whether Chairwoman Khan should recuse herself from certain things. I mean, her career’s built on a paper that basically trashed Amazon. So, will she be pressed to recuse herself from, I would say, review of this sort of thing?

Jonathan Make:

She absolutely has been pressed and so far has not. And the expectation is that she will not. And also maybe that she doesn’t necessarily need to, this kind of goes to if you ever express an opinion about something, and yes, it was a paper, and it seemed to really make her mark in the antitrust world at an early age, in the early stage in her career. Most experts seem to think that, well, I mean, you have to be able to express opinions. It’s not like she said, you know, “I’m going to be against Amazon buying an MGM,” but right, so far, no recusal and it’s widely expected she will not. 

And I guess in terms of what I’m working on, I’ve kind of shifted my focus. Basically, in a week after we’re taping this, so probably around when this comes out, I’ll be going back into local news, which I was excited to bring up just because we often, at some part, sometime during this podcast, try to talk about local news. Because it is an animating force behind the FCC where they talk about localism, and a lot of the even intellectual property debates have to do with local broadcast news or news platforms, et cetera. So, my family and I, we’re making a pretty big move. I will be the kind of number two editor at the Cheyenne, Wyoming, daily metropolitan newspaper. 

Scott Wallsten:

That is a big change.

Jonathan Make:

A big, big change for me. I will be much closer to all my family in Denver. So, I’m very excited about that. And the timing was really right in terms of my son’s schooling and my wife’s career also as a journalist in her job. So, you know, we’ll be doing obviously a lot of local journalism, and part of my job will be making sure that we can do good news, even as we have to do more of that online, and not just in the physical paper that they print there. So, you know, excited to talk about that. And, you know, I have long researched and pontificated on local news and its importance. And again, there have been some proceedings I’ve covered about. So, you know, I’m excited to kind of be back in that, be close to family, and hopefully we’re going to keep doing some really good local news.

Scott Wallsten:

You’re not covering telecom in Cheyenne?

Jonathan Make:

Hopefully a little bit actually. Wyoming is fascinating. They have a huge data center industry there now, and cryptocurrency mining due to the favorable tax and regulatory situation, land use situation, and then the cool energy and other things. Primarily, I’ll be in a similar role editing, working with the younger reporters. My beat, as I foresee it, is actually writing about community news in terms of volunteer organizations, nonprofits, religious organizations, you know, this is kind of the bread and butter that the local readers there, I think, or we think, are going to want to read. So, to the extent that I can get to congregations, to some nonprofits, the local animal shelter, whatever it might be, and see what they’re doing when they have, you know, management changes or big initiatives. So, that will kind of be my little area, and then there is a monthly business section, essentially, and I’ll be overseeing that. And again, there is some technology, and I will tell you finally, it was very interesting today, it’s always cool when as a reporter, you put on your consumer hat in this huge space, which of course occurs very frequently from many of us. 

I was signing up for residential broadband and phone service. And yeah, I guess I was glad that Century Link, again which we talked about, it’s part of Lumen, used to be a Baby Bell. They did ask, are you familiar with the, I believe it’s ACP, you know, the FCC’s subsidized broadband program, which just had its life extended, thanks to one of the infrastructure bills. So, it’s good to see about that and interesting to a compare and contrast cable, which ended up in this case being a much better deal and much faster with the DSL that the phone company was offering. So, you know, to the extent I think that these become issues that are really affecting people, that there are complaints, or whatnot. I’m sure we’ll be writing about them.

Scott Wallsten:

We’re going to miss you here in DC and all of your reporting. It’s a big loss for us.

Jonathan Make:

I’ll really miss you guys and really appreciate doing this.

Scott Wallsten:

Yeah. Well, thanks so much for joining us again, and good luck with everything.

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