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Rep. Swalwell Shouldn't Let Congress Ban FaceTime and Amazon Prime

Original post made by Adam Kovacevich, another community, on Jun 22, 2021

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 preinstalled on your iPhone. Is this a world in which you'd be better off?

That may soon be a reality for folks living in Pleasanton but Rep. Swalwell 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, Californians 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 Pleasanton, and real problems facing this country: Rep. Swalwell should focus on finding ways to create solutions to these issues instead of banning things that make our lives easier.

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Adam Kovacevich is CEO of the Chamber of Progress, a center-left tech industry policy coalition promoting technology's progressive future.

Comments (5)

Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Jun 22, 2021 at 10:47 am

sjd is a registered user.

By my reading, the point of the bills mentioned is to reduce monopolistic practices by major tech companies - to prevent them from using their marketplace to unfairly advantage their own products. There is some debate about what it might specifically result in, and even whether it's fair (after all, grocery stores have private label items too). I've read the Chamber of Progress' analysis of the bill, and in that analysis they say the bill "could" result in X, where in this letter they say that it "would."

By implying the intent is to just ban stuff, this letter implies malice instead of encouraging active engagement in democracy. How about consider where the other side is coming from (monopolies are bad), and disagree respectfully on whether the issue is actually a problem or where the cost benefit ratio is?

"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."

These are tiny modifications that don't address the root issue of anticompetitive practices. Look, I get what it's like to be on a board that needs to fundraise and try to remain independent. I've been there. But come on. The best way forward is likely somewhere between these token suggestions and the very broad language of these bills you dislike.

Chamber of Progress: "Our work is supported by our corporate partners, but our partners do not sit on our board of directors and do not have a vote on or veto over our positions." However, partners include: Amazon Automattic DoorDash Facebook Getaround Google Grubhub Instacart Lime Lyft Nuro Twitter Uber Waymo Wing Zillow


Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jun 22, 2021 at 11:45 am

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

Yeah apple code should be open source so everyone has access to it to create whatever sh!t they want so they can complain to apple about why it doesn't work when apple should have known that someone would do x,y,and zed with it once they made it open source because consumer "A" bought the phone and therefore bought the code and development behind it and should do whatever they want with it.

Echo systems work as well as they do because theyre designed and controlled to work well.


Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Jun 22, 2021 at 1:05 pm

sjd is a registered user.

@PP
Reforming anti-competitive practices in ecosystems is not the same thing as requiring them to be open source, nor does it require "anything goes", nor does it imply the customer owns the code.


Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jun 22, 2021 at 1:53 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

I pay a fee for water I use in my home. It is regulated through a meter. When that water is discharged from my home, I still own it. I pay a conveyance fee for that discharge.

That discharge is captured and reused by government entities to water government parks and golf courses. Sometimes my discharged water is provided during drought to other property owners. That is water I own.

Should I be compensated for that water I own?


Posted by Jake Waters
a resident of Birdland
on Jun 23, 2021 at 8:51 am

Jake Waters is a registered user.

Unfortunately High Tech provides a lot of campaign funds to both sides of the floor in Congress so it’s difficult to manage what they do, not to mention the time it will take to do it if seriously considered. The biggest threat we as a public face from the internet giants is the search capabilities that they control and the information they get to regulate because of their politics. Their ability to sensor is just one of the major threats to our Republic. Sadly, Eric Swalwell isn’t interested in addressing that cause, but then he has other things on his mind.

Just mentioning Eric Swalwell brings up a numbers of topics to discus about him as a Representative where this subject is just noise to distract from his lack of character and accomplishments.


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