American technology companies have led the world for decades in creating amazing new products and services to help consumers and support economic growth throughout the states. Those products, services, jobs, innovation and American economic prosperity are now under threat by lawmakers who could unintentionally stifle technology’s progress with talk of antitrust investigations and “breaking up big tech.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has used the consumer welfare standard to judge all competition enforcement for decades. Without question, U.S. tech companies are improving consumers’ lives. Mobile devices with access to volumes of content from music to medical research to algebra or business classes. Directions for our day, our flights or alerts of tornadoes, floods, weather incidents or accidents that could delay our commute. One-day shipping for millions of products for business or personal use. Immediate answers to millions of questions a day — even when 15 percent of them have never been asked before.
Social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram enable us to share news and keep in touch with loved ones around the globe. We can book hotels on sites like Expedia, compare costs for flights on Kayak and then head over to Yelp and TripAdvisor to find restaurants and things to do. An entrepreneur can raise money for a business on Kickstarter, showcase their success on YouTube, purchase digital advertising to compete against much larger corporations, and then sell the product to global consumers on Amazon.
In 2013 when federal investigators looked at allegations of unfair competition, they concluded decisively that a company like Google is successful because it has to compete against so many other companies: “While some of Google’s rivals may have lost sales due to an improvement in Google’s product, these types of adverse effects on particular competitors from vigorous rivalry are a common byproduct of ‘competition on the merits’ and the competitive process that the law encourages.”
In other words, Google has a wide variety of services that they constantly improve, add to and integrate. They have competition for their services in all their business areas — search, ads or smartphones. Google and their competitors spend millions every month to keep up in this global competitive environment.
In both Congress and the Virginia General Assembly, I worked on a bipartisan basis for over a decade to promote research, development and innovation in our technology sector to keep the U.S. No. 1. From artificial intelligence and quantum computing to autonomous vehicles and voice assistants, America’s technology companies are advancing breakthroughs that not only result in better consumer services, but also revolutionize health care, increase productivity and create entire new industries.
The technology sector has also benefited our communities. Tech hubs not only bring higher paying jobs to those who work in the industry, but research shows that teachers, nurses, carpenters, plumbers, security officers, and other local service jobs are created at a ratio of 5-1 in the tech hubs, raising salaries and the standard of living for all. We need this rising tide to flow to more communities — and it is.
The technology industry is growing the U.S. economy across the entire country. Only 14 percent of Internet jobs and value are located in cities like Silicon Valley, Manhattan and Seattle. That leaves 86 percent of jobs and business spread throughout the United States.
For the second straight year Google is expanding faster outside California than in it, recently announcing plans to invest an additional $13 billion in U.S. data centers and offices in 14 states. The new investments include hiring tens of thousands of additional employees, and enable the creation of more than 10,000 new construction jobs in places like Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, Texas and Virginia.
Today, product excellence and informed consumers drive the market as never before. The United States — in red and blue states — should continue to lead the world with bipartisan support for more innovative tech hubs that provide these higher paying jobs, better quality of life, and an entire ecosystem that constantly invests in and promotes consumer welfare on many fronts.
• Barbara Comstock, a former Republican U.S. representative, was chairwoman of the Research and Technology Subcommittee of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology and also served as chairwoman of the Science and Technology Committee in the Virginia House of Delegates. She is a consultant to Google.