The internet has opened doors and pathways to more than we could have ever imagined just a couple of decades ago. It has become hard to imagine our lives without companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook or Apple, and the conveniences and connections they bring us. However, as we have come to be more and more reliant on their products and services, these Big Tech giants have been quietly building dominance over the online marketplace, maintaining power and wealth at the expense of small businesses, consumer, and workers.
As we approach the congressional August recess, the hope is that the bipartisan American Innovation and Choice Online Act (S. 2992) will come to the Senate floor for a vote. If passed by Congress and signed into law, S.2992 will prohibit tech platforms from “favoring their own products or services, disadvantaging rivals, or discriminating among businesses that use their platforms in a manner that would materially harm competition on the platform.” It would also forbid dominant platforms from preventing interoperability with other services and from leveraging another company’s data on the platform to compete against them. In other words, it levels the playing field between these tech behemoths and the small businesses selling goods and services on their platforms. When monopolies are broken down, innovation thrives.
In Alaska, small businesses play a critical and indispensable role in our economy. According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are 73,981 small businesses in Alaska, which make up 99.1% of all Alaska businesses. These small businesses employ 136,455 people, or 52.3% of the private workforce. As our congressional delegation has been champions for the small business communities, we need their support now to pass this legislation, and make it easier for Alaska small businesses to thrive in the online marketplace.
Federal legislation supporting small businesses is crucial for the Southeast’s economy, which is still struggling to recover from the pandemic’s impact on the tourism industry. For every dollar spent at a local business, 63 cents stays in our economy, according to a report by the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development. Only 22 cents of every dollar spent at an Outside owned business, like a big box store, stays in Alaska.
Currently, a company like Amazon, for example, amasses troves of information based on sales from independent sellers. They can then use that information to develop competing products, manipulate search results to prioritize their products, and develop favorable algorithms. This creates an environment where it is nearly impossible for small businesses to compete. It’s compounded by the fact that Amazon has become so large that small businesses have few options but to work with them as a vendor. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would prevent Amazon from favoring its own products over others, resulting in a more fair and balanced platform for those who support themselves and their families through the sale of goods online.
We often joke that politics is Alaska’s state sport; if that’s the case this year is our Super Bowl. With the passing of Congressman Don Young and the introduction of ranked choice voting, we are working through unprecedented times, all while our political differences are continuously under a microscope. But no matter which side of the political spectrum you are on, this bipartisan legislation proves that we can still find common ground. We all want to see our Alaskan communities thrive and we all want a strong economy. Encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship while supporting our local small businesses is how we can help make that happen.
Big Tech is winning the battle against entrepreneurs, consumers, and workers. The current actions of these corporations are destroying the competitive and open marketplace while stifling the ability of businesses to grow their customer base and create more jobs. A level playing field is needed and now is the time for this change.
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act (S. 2992) finally allows us to curtail the many bad deeds of Big Tech corporations who have taken small businesses hostage and exploited consumer data. It is not a daring or unfeasible bill. This is the type of bipartisan, commonsense legislation that should have been implemented years ago.
The time has come to end Big Tech’s rule.
• Sen. Josh Revak, R-Anchorage, represents District M in South Anchorage.