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Lack of competition is driving federal budget antitrust hike

President Joe Biden’s 2023 federal budget proposal increases funding for antitrust enforcement, signaling the administration’s continued interest in market competition. However, experts are critical of its emerging technology standards investments.

The federal budget seeks to increase funding for the Federal Trade Commission by $139 million and add $88 million to the U.S. Department of Justice antitrust division. According to the proposal, the “budget reflects the administration’s commitment to vigorous marketplace competition through robust enforcement of antitrust law.”

Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the federal budget includes increased funding to the FTC and DOJ antitrust division to “ensure there is competition in this country.” Young spoke during a U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget hearing Wednesday.

“We believe lack of competition raises prices,” she said during the hearing over the $5.8 trillion budget.

The FTC and DOJ are pursuing antitrust cases against Meta, formerly known as Facebook, and Google, respectively. Antitrust cases tend to be lengthy and costly, something that experts have said could be an issue for the resource-strapped federal enforcement agencies as they face multi-billion-dollar companies with unlimited resources.

Biden’s investment in tech standards not enough

In other areas, the White House is adding $187 million to the National Institute of Standards and Technology for research initiatives and development of standards to accelerate the adoption of emerging technologies such as quantum science, advanced biotechnologies and artificial intelligence.

But the funding increase is too little too late, said Alan Pelz-Sharpe, founder of market research firm Deep Analysis.

Pelz-Sharpe said it would be good for the U.S. to set standards for AI, particularly around the areas of fair use, transparency and bias. However, he said the U.S. is behind the curve when it comes to standards setting and likely won’t set a precedent for the rest of the world to follow.

“The international community has already moved ahead to define and set standards,” Pelz-Sharpe said.

The European Union, for example, has adopted its General Data Protection Regulation, a privacy and security law, while the U.S. has yet to adopt a federal data privacy law, Pelz-Sharpe said.

When it comes to data, the federal budget does include an increase of $36 million to protect sensitive U.S. data against foreign threats. The increased funding would be used to review the information and communications technology (ICT) supply chain transactions that “pose an undue risk to the United States, and an enforcement program to deter and mitigate foreign malicious cyber-enabled activities.”

Pelz-Sharpe said foreign threats to U.S. data are serious and need to be addressed. But the $36 million increase “will not go anything near far enough to truly address the mounting threats.”

Makenzie Holland is a news writer covering big tech and federal regulation. Prior to joining TechTarget, she was a general reporter for the Wilmington StarNews and a crime and education reporter at the Wabash Plain Dealer.

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