Imagine a world in which Amazon isn’t allowed to offer Prime free shipping. Or Google can’t show you a map of the top-ranked pizza places in your neighborhood. Or FaceTime and iMessage aren’t pre-installed on your iPhone. Is this a world in which you’d be better off?
That may soon be a reality for folks living in Boulder, but Rep. Joe Neguse can do something to stop it.
Two bills recently introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. David Cicilline and Pramila Jayapal would make that world a reality, raising prices on everyday services, making it more difficult to find information and removing options for consumers.
Especially during the pandemic, Coloradoans came to count on the low-cost or free conveniences that tech innovations provide. Amazon offered a safe means of buying daily necessities; Zoom, FaceTime and Facebook created a free way to stay in touch with physically distant friends and family; and Google opened a convenient avenue to access up-to-date information from public health officials.
Rather than find ways to encourage more choice and more innovations, these two proposed bills would be a step back and make our lives worse.
These bills would force the removal of many of the helpful features that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have built into services over the years to make our lives easier.
Some of these are relatively simple conveniences (such as low-cost Amazon Basics batteries, or seeing the full lyrics of a song appearing when you Google it). Others can be more consequential (marking yourself safe during a disaster on Facebook). What is common among them is that they all improve our lives to some degree, and at little or no cost.
This is not to say that the digital economy cannot be improved. Regulators could use more funding to better monitor market developments. Data portability measures could make it easier for us to switch between platforms, making digital markets more competitive. But these proposed bills do nothing to address these problems. That’s not what most of us want from Washington.
Congress should focus on improving our lives, not banning low- or no-cost digital services relied upon by millions of Americans. Our leaders should use their positions of power to improve the lives of everyday Americans, especially as we all try to recover from a pandemic where these products and services were a lifeline or a comfort to millions of Americans.
There are real problems facing Boulder, and real problems facing this country: Rep. Neguse should focus on finding ways to create solutions to these issues instead of banning things that make our lives easier.
Adam Kovacevich is CEO of the Chamber of Progress, a center-left tech industry policy coalition promoting technology’s progressive future.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.