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“Yo Competition!”: How America Can Learn From Rocky & Win the Global Fight for Tech Innovation

 |  August 4, 2022

By: Alex Petros (Public Knowledge)

In Rocky IV, all-American underdog Rocky Balboa faces his stiffest challenge yet—Soviet colossus Ivan Drago. Drago’s training consists of high-tech scientific workout machinery and a hefty dose of anabolic steroids. Does Rocky try to beat Drago by simply copying the Russian’s training regimen? Nope. Instead, he goes to the Siberian wilderness to train via trudging through the snow, Good Samaritan sled rescue, and lifting heavy rocks around a remote farm (a truly epic training montage). Rocky’s eventual victory is won not through playing Drago’s game, but playing his own. American tech companies could stand to learn a few things from the Italian Stallion if they want to win their bouts with the Russian and Chinese corporate Dragos. Don’t expect America to retain and grow its technological edge through coddling of monopolies, but through good, old-fashioned, American-as-apple-pie competition.

Enter the debate around two landmark tech competition bills—The American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICO)and the Open App Markets Act (OAMA) concerning their potential effects on American global competitiveness. Led by the all-American bipartisan and bicameral tag teams of Reps. David Cicilline and Ken Buck along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Chuck Grassley, these bills would level the competitive playing field and return fair competition to tech platform markets. These bills represent an essential step in the preservation of an industry dominated by a handful of unaccountable companies. Yet their beneficial impacts won’t just be limited domestically. They can be a key component in making America the place for the next generation of technological innovation.

These bills should increase America’s technological edge by introducing the American secret sauce to the equation: competition. American antitrust law is all about competition. Congress should be looking to protect it, cherish it, and promote it at every turn. When companies have to duke it out every day, they’re forced to innovate and be better. Competition also gives technology users greater choice in the digital platform they use and less beholden to one walled garden whose features, practices, and standards they may not prefer. Under competitive threat, companies are marathon runners finding that extra burst of speed to fend off an encroaching rival. Freed from competition, they grow sluggish, lazy, and complacent…