"The open internet has delivered enormous benefits to Americans, including a surge of economic opportunity, massive investment, and new pathways for education online," committee chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said in a statement Monday. "But there is growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content, and communications."
"The Committee has a rich tradition of conducting studies and investigations to assess the threat of monopoly power in the US economy," Nadler said. "Given the growing tide of concentration and consolidation across our economy, it is vital that we investigate the current state of competition in digital markets and the health of the antitrust laws."
The "Internet is broken," Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) told reporters in no uncertain terms. Cicilline chairs the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. "In a lot of ways, there was a reluctance in the early days of the Internet to interfere," Cicilline said. "It was creating so much value in the lives of people that [some felt] you should get out of the way and allow it to flourish."
"Over time, people have recognized there are some real dangers here," he said.
Some of the companies expected to come under the microscope include Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Apple, the Washington Post noted.
The committee's probe will focus on three main areas: documenting which digital markets lack competition, looking at whether or not the companies in question are suppressing their competitors and deciding whether or not Congress or other regulators like the Federal Trade Commission should do more to rein in those companies from unfair market domination.
Just last Friday, the Department of Justice announced it was preparing an investigation of Google's business practices to see if the internet giant violated US antitrust laws, Sputnik reported. The DOJ's investigation follows a 2013 report by the FTC that concluded Google's seeming manipulation of the market was incidental.
Cicilline said the committee would hold hearings and, if necessary, subpoena documents from tech companies under the microscope.
Some tech giants have argued in the past that their size is not a threat to the services their industry provides, but an asset. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg holds that the company's size makes it easier for government regulations to be implemented quickly across large parts of the web.
"We're able to do things that are not possible for other companies to do," he told reporters last month.