Q&A: Big Tech Reboot – Senator Chuck Grassley

Big Tech Reboot

With U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley


Q: Why did you introduce the American Innovation and
Choice Online Act?


A: During my
county meetings with Iowans, I get a lot of feedback about anti-competitive
behaviors that impact the prices families are paying for groceries, gas and
prescription drugs. Cattle feeders feel squeezed by the Big Four meatpackers
while restaurants and consumers pay more for beef. Biofuels producers and
retailers are constantly battling Big Oil’s shenanigans to gut the Renewable
Fuel Standard while consumers are getting gut-punched at the pump. For several
years, I’ve locked horns with Big Pharma. I’ve conducted oversight work on insulin
 and companies that gamed the system with EpiPens at
taxpayer expense. Further, I’ve advanced bipartisan legislation to curb
anti-competitive practices
 and improve access to affordable medicine. 


Another big sector of the U.S. economy that touches the
daily lives of Americans is Big Tech. Since the dawn of the internet, America’s
free marketplace has fostered remarkable innovation that changed the way
Americans buy and sell goods and services, communicate with each other, learn,
work and live. After decades of growing market share across digital platforms,
Big Tech is flexing its muscle to give itself a leg up while hurting small
businesses and consumers on their platforms. Big Tech has outsized
influence in American culture and commerce; the big players are abusing their
dominance to stifle competition and innovation. I’m leading this bipartisan
effort with Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Big Tech would benefit with a dose
of Midwestern common sense. Our antitrust reforms aren’t aiming to break up Big
Tech or outlaw the products and services they offer. We’re working to prevent
actions that stifle competition and harm small businesses and consumers.


Q: What would your reforms do?


A: Although
Big Tech opposes regulation of its business model, it’s important the rules of
the road foster robust competition to keep our economy growing and keep the
lanes of information open. American consumers don’t want gatekeepers censoring
content on their platforms or picking winners and losers. The good news is
there’s appetite for reform in Congress to rein in Big Tech’s abusive
practices. Our bill made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a
bipartisan 16-6 vote. Not surprisingly, well-funded lobbying and messaging
efforts are underway to derail reforms, using scare tactics such as false
claims that our bill would torpedo popular programs such as two-day shipping or
render search engines, online maps and restaurant reviews meaningless. This
legislation would do none of those things; it would only require that dominant
Big Tech platforms can’t create unfair preferences or treat their own products
or services more favorably than other businesses that need to use the platform
to reach their customers. Our bill would set standards for fair and
nondiscriminatory treatment of business users. Consider what this bill
does not do – it would not prevent a smart phone from having apps preinstalled;
it would not prevent providers from offering subscription services that
consumers benefit from, such as Amazon Prime; it would not prevent a company
from offering its own app store with whatever security features it chooses to
include. Again, beefing up competition levels the playing field for
start-ups and small businesses and expands consumer choice. Free enterprise has
anchored America’s economic growth and prosperity for generations. Without competition
protections that keep industry giants from monopolizing market share and
squeezing out competitors, American innovation would wither on the vine. For
example, it’s been 100 years since Congress passed the Packers and
Stockyards Act 
to prohibit unfair practices that give undue preferences
and advantage. Independent cattle producers get the short end of the stick when
enforcement of the law doesn’t have bite behind the bark. The same idea goes
for Big Tech. I’m working to enact antitrust legislation so the dominant Big
Tech platforms can’t harm competition. Rooting out discriminatory practices
will help foster competition that’s good for consumers – more choices in
content, services and goods from a variety of providers. At my county meetings
one specific issue consistently comes up time and time again. “Why can’t you
get along in Washington and work together.” This bill has broad, bicameral
support across the ideological spectrum. That meets the Goldilocks standard –
it’s not too far left or too far right, and we’re working to achieve consensus.
It also meets a rule of thumb I follow in the U.S. Senate. I’ll work with
anyone at the policymaking table to solve problems on behalf of Iowans.


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