Senator Josh Revak (R – Anchorage) seems to think that the technology companies that have made the internet what it is today have broken our online ecosystem. But is that really true? The internet is perhaps one of the worlds greatest inventions and achievements. Its transformed almost every aspect of society and continues to do so to this day, and will well into the future.
This online ecosystem was able to thrive in part because of the companies that have mastered and improved it. Companies like Google, Amazon, Apple and others created services and platforms that millions of people use every day to accomplish business and personal tasks ranging from collaborating with colleagues to buying dinner for your family.
But some in the U.S. Senate are seeking to overturn this overflowing apple cart with misguided and potentially disastrous antitrust legislation that threatens to hamstring or do away with platforms and services that small businesses and consumers rely upon. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D – MN) and Chuck Grassley (R – IA) have been championing the American Choice and Innovation Online Act, S.2992, under the guise of leveling the playing field. But would it really “level” the playing field?
One of the main thrusts of this bill is to outlaw companies from favoring their own services and products, but isn’t that just business as usual? Companies in brick-and-mortar stores have been ‘self-preferencing’ for over a hundred years. Think of your local grocer putting their store-brand products on the ends of aisles where they are more readily available.
Another pillar of the bill would force interoperability with other company’s services. But is this a good thing? In practice, this will open the ‘back doors’ of the internet to companies owned by foreign competitors and would be taken advantage of by bad actors in China and Russia who are known to be constantly prodding the American internet for weaknesses to leverage.
Senator Revak is right that small businesses play a critical role in the Alaskan economy. But did he stop to think about the fact that the platforms and services offered by American technology companies is one of the reasons they are able to contribute so much? Having products available on e-commerce platforms enables small companies to reach a larger audience than ever before, and having access to first-class shipping networks gives them an edge in providing top-tier customer service that many consumers have come to expect.
Aside from all the practical problems with this bill, it abandons the true purpose of antitrust law – consumer protection. For over 40 years this has been the benchmark by which antitrust law was measured. Now it seems that Senators Klobuchar and Grassley are ready to toss that aside for a ‘big is bad’ mentality. But these companies became large because they provide valuable services and platforms that consumers love and use every day.
Voters and consumers trust the free market principles that made our economy one of the powerhouses of the world. We should not let the government take control of it to punish those they misguidedly think are acting in bad faith.
Adam Schwemley is a lifelong Alaskan who currently serves as a co-director with Alaskans for Tax Reform.