Internet: New FCC head targets net neutrality
President Trump’s pick to head the Federal Communications Commission isn’t wasting any time rolling back Obama-era regulations, said Cecilia Kang in The New York Times. Over the past week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has “moved aggressively” to scrap rules that would have opened up the cable-box market to more competition, kept prison phone rates down, and discounted high-speed internet for lowwage households. Most significantly, Pai “took his first swipe” at ending net neutrality, closing an investigation into T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon for their so-called zero-rating practices, which critics say run afoul of rules requiring broadband companies to treat all internet traffic equally.
With Pai in charge, new net neutrality rules could be headed for a reversal, said Mike Snider in USA Today. The scrapped zerorating investigation found that wireless carriers were likely flouting net neutrality rules by allowing customers to stream and download some branded content without it counting against their monthly data limits. AT&T, for instance, lets users stream unlimited DirecTV Now, which it owns, on their mobile devices without having their data caps affected; competitors’ content doesn’t get the same treatment. If the FCC continues down this path, internet customers can likely expect some content to stream more slowly, while their mobile provider’s partners’ content streams extra fast.
Economy: U.S. trade deficit widens
The U.S. global trade deficit in 2016 was the widest it’s been in four years, said Ben Leubsdorf in The Wall Street Journal. “As in past years,” U.S. imports exceeded exports, with the Commerce Department this week reporting a $502.3 billion gap last year, an increase of 0.4 percent from 2015. President Trump made narrowing the trade deficit a centerpiece of his campaign, but he faces huge obstacles. A strong dollar, large federal deficits, and the specter of a trade war if Trump pushes through tariffs could all “force trade deficits to widen” even further.
Autos: Big checks for GM workers
“Hourly workers for General Motors will get record bonus checks of up to $12,000 after the company reported booming sales in North America,” said Brent Snavely in the Detroit Free Press. The Detroit automaker this week reported $12 billion in North American profit for 2016, up from $11 billion a year earlier, powered by record vehicle sales and strong demand for high-profit large trucks, crossovers, and pickups. Under a profit-sharing agreement, GM’s 52,000 United Auto Workers receive $1,000 “for every $1 billion in annual pre-tax North American profit.”
Economy: January jobs report shows strong gains
“The U.S. economy picked up in 2017 right where it left off in 2016,” said Patrick Gillespie in CNN.com. The U.S. added 227,000 jobs in January, outpacing December’s 157,000-job gain and continuing a 76-month streak of job creation. More Americans also started looking for work, causing the unemployment rate to tick up slightly to 4.8 percent. The report, which reflects the final weeks of the Obama administration, shows that President Trump is inheriting a relatively strong employment market, though Trump in the past has dismissed the official unemployment rate as a “hoax.”
Fashion: Ralph Lauren, Tiffany & Co. jettison CEOs
Big changes are afoot in the world of luxury brands, said Stephanie Hoi-Nga Wong in Bloomberg.com. Ralph Lauren “abruptly announced” the departure of CEO Stefan Larsson last week, following a “creative clash” with the fashion brand’s namesake founder. Larsson, who previously led Old Navy, leaves only two years after being brought in to reinvigorate the 50-year-old company, which has been under pressure from fast-fashion chains and the decline of department stores. Tiffany & Co. also replaced its CEO, Frederic Cumenal, this week after “w eak holiday sales that sent the stock tumbling.”