Taming monopolies in the digital age

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[Commentary] Our nation has faced the corrosive power of monopolies before. The lack of competition that initially contaminated the industrial revolution was gradually tamed, and the benefits of technological progress eventually produced a secure and stable American middle class. But this achievement did not happen by accident, and was instead the product of a hard-fought effort to inject competition into an economy dominated by large and powerful companies. Once again, it falls to Americans and their leaders to rebalance the results of a technological revolution to benefit all, not simply the barons of the new technology. The dominance of companies — whether the networks or the services and content they deliver — has empowered them to make their own rules. And with their own rules comes marked pain for the middle class. It is a stark repeat of the early industrial era when companies exploited technology to control the economy, squash competition, and dictate take-it-or-leave-it terms to consumers. In the midst of the challenges facing 21st-century Americans, it is sometimes hard to find time to focus on how the corporate Goliaths of the internet are silently slipping their control into our daily lives. Yet, the time has come once again for the people to stand up and shout “Enough!” A key ingredient in the rise of a healthy sustainable middle class was people’s collective communication to their representatives in government to demand a rebalance of the inequities created by industrial power. A similar imbalance now exists in regard to digital power over each of our lives, our privacy, competition, and consumer protection.


Taming monopolies in the digital age