Congress Should Not Undercut Small Business Access to Digital Tools

Congress is considering legislation – the American Innovation and Choice Online Act – to change how America’s leading technology companies operate. While their intentions may be in the right place, some in Congress are ignoring what this will mean for small businesses. During the pandemic, free and low-cost digital tools and services from large technology companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon helped millions of small businesses remain open. Now is not the time to enact new laws without considering small businesses’ impacts, like increased software costs or less effective ad targeting.

My small business – StartingPoint Technologies – ensures other small businesses have the technology and tools they need to make their lives easier and create a better customer experience. I previously consulted with many leading technology companies and have decades of experience working with digital tools and business optimization software. We offer businesses software to optimize workflow, streamline services, and scale their operations. Several years ago, the costs, tools, staff, and equipment needed to build websites, use corporate email, and manage online advertising campaigns were significant barriers to many small businesses. Today, easy-to-use tools allow even the least digitally sophisticated business owners to run and grow their businesses and compete in ways that were impossible a few decades ago.

Amazon and Shopify help sellers reach customers globally and provide payment processing, shipping, data security, and other critical needs. Microsoft and Google provide several affordable tools for small businesses, including communications and collaboration software that make it easy to speak, video-chat, email with customers and colleagues, and share documents and other content so teams can work together.

Digital advertising may be the most valuable digital tool for small businesses, allowing us to reach more people quicker, easier, and cheaper than ever before. Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn use sophisticated data analytics to deliver small business ads to the precisely right audience for a fraction of the price of direct mail or ads in the phone book.

Small businesses love these platforms because they provide many critical business functions for a reasonable price, and they can do so because they are large, integrated companies. These efficiencies are what business experts encourage and consumers desire. You would think our elected officials would support the software companies that help small businesses. Still, in Washington and virtually every state capital, Facebook, Amazon, and Google are being targeted to promote “competition.” But why?

If new laws make it easier for regulators to break up integrated services, that will likely make small business tools more expensive and difficult to use. For example, small businesses prefer using Google Analytics with Google Ads because it is free and its integration with ads makes it a more powerful analytics tool, which helps companies determine which ads performed best, which ones need improvement, and which audiences to target. If Google is forced to separate those two programs, it will make Google Analytics less powerful and might force small businesses to use other analytics providers that charge for the service. Ultimately, Google’s bottom line won’t be impacted at all, but small businesses will have to endure higher costs and less effective ad targeting.

With sky-high inflation and a shaky economy, Congress has better things to focus on than breaking apart large tech companies. Sens. Feinstein and Padilla should think long and hard before passing any laws that could endanger the future of so many California businesses.

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