By most accounts, the eight years of Obama administration did a lot of good for Google. As the Google Transparency Project reported earlier this year, over 250 people moved between federal government jobs and positions at the Mountain View-based tech giant under Obama's presidency. Last month, WikiLeaks released a set of emails stolen from John Podesta, the Chairman of the Clinton campaign. Among other things, the said emails revealed a note sent to Clinton by a campaign adviser which explicitly states that Obama and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) put a large focus on collaborating with Google in recent years. This good relationship with the DNC also reflected on the recent US presidential race as Reuters reports that Google's employees donated a lot more money to Hillary Clinton's campaign than that of Donald Trump. Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet, was even photographed attending a Clinton's Election Night party on November 8th.
Tom Wheeler, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) appointed by Obama in 2013 was also often accused of favoring Google and its Google Fiber broadband Internet and cable TV service at the expense of traditional cable companies. So, while the relationship between the Alphabet-owned company and the Obama administration wasn't always peachy, it would be fair to say that Google mostly did well under Obama's presidency.
All of that could soon change as the new administration of the President-elect Donald J. Trump takes office in early 2017. Once the transition is complete, Google could be facing a much less favorable regulatory framework that certainly won't be designed to help the company's many battles with traditional telecommunications and cable businesses in the United States. Several days ago, Wheeler dropped the data services market reform from the voting agenda following intense pressure from Republican representatives in the Congress. The said change was heavily opposed by the likes of CenturyLink and AT&T, telecom giants that wouldn't benefit from the proposed regulatory landscape, unlike Google.
In addition to that, latest reports suggest that the FCC will reject Wheeler's recent proposal to overhaul the pay-TV set-top box market. With direct backing from President Obama, the FCC Chairman suggested rules which would effectively break down satellite companies' control of the said market, a move which telecom firms labeled as a "Google Proposal," Reuters reports. In other words, it now doesn't seem likely that Google will be allowed to provide TV set-top boxes and compete with existing large players on the market. Seeing how this is a $20 billion annual industry, such a turn of events would be a significant defeat for Google even though the Mountain View-based tech giant isn't overly reliant on creating new revenue streams. Well, at least not at the moment, that is. While Wheeler could certainly push for all of his proposed reforms in the twilight of the Obama administration, the FCC Chairman has apparently dropped that idea given how Republican legislators have already explicitly stated that a theoretical new framework would likely be reversed shortly after the new executive branch of the government takes office.
Furthermore, the incoming Trump administration could also roll back net neutrality rules adopted by the FCC last year. Barring a few exceptions, the current regulatory landscape requires Internet service providers to treat all data equally, which is something Google has strongly advocated for in recent years. As many Republicans oppose net neutrality, these rules could be reversed next year. Namely, once the President-elect Trump takes office on January 20th, all three branches of the US government will be controlled by the Grand Old Party (GOP). In other words, there will be nothing stopping the Republicans to roll back net neutrality rules if they choose to do so. While net neutrality is a rather complex issue, the short version of the story is that an open Internet favors Google and other companies which offer Internet services without actually owning any Internet infrastructure. For example, if AT&T manages to acquire Time Warner which also owns HBO, the current rules more or less prevent the second largest carrier in the US from offering better streaming speeds for HBO GO at the expense of a competitor like Netflix.
Last but not least, Google is currently free of strict user privacy rules imposed on Internet service providers thanks to a new set of privacy regulations enacted by the FCC in October. Seeing how a Republican-led government isn't as favorable towards Internet companies like a Democratic one is, these regulations could also end up changing, which is another potential avenue of problems for Google. All in all, while the Mountain View-based tech giant and its parent firm Alphabet have yet to officially comment on the incoming US administration, it's obvious things aren't looking good for these companies.