(This article originally appeared on The Hill)
President Biden’s sweeping executive order issued last week to spur competition contains 72 directives for more than a dozen federal agencies to act on over the coming months. There will be opposition, debates, hang-wringing, lawsuits and long periods of time before the federal bureaucracy turns these directives into reality. But small business owners should be happy with what he’s doing. Why? Because although his intention is to limit the anti-competitive power of large companies, there are a few important parts of the order that will have a direct impact on their small businesses. Here are eight.
1. They will have more choice in broadband services.
Can you choose between Xfinity and Verizon? No, you can’t. You have to go with the provider in your building. Many small businesses are stuck with few, if any, choices for critical internet services and oftentimes it’s down to whatever deal landlords have cut with a single company providing access to their property. The executive order wants the Federal Communications Commission to prevent internet service providers from making these kinds of deals with landlords because it simply limits your choice, undermines your control and potentially increases your costs. Thumbs up on that.
2. Speaking of the internet, you will not be at a disadvantage to larger companies.
The president’s order overturned his predecessor’s rulings that allowed large internet service providers to charge more – or limit access – for their services based on usage. So, in a nutshell: net neutrality is back. I know there’s a big debate about this and people on both sides are passionate about its impact.
Opponents of net neutrality say that doing so will impact the growth of the very companies that provide a critical part of the infrastructure that drives commerce. Supporters say it gives us all a fair chance. Both sides wave studies and research supporting their positions. I’m not sure that either side really knows the answer as this is uncharted territory. But for now I’ll say that net neutrality is more than likely a good thing for small businesses, until we have actual real life data that proves otherwise.
3. You may have more online advertising options
Speaking of a neutral net, thank goodness the government is finally taking steps to scrutinize firms such as Google and Facebook, which pretty much control the online advertising and search world. I’ve written before about how the Google monopoly kills small businesses, and the situation hasn’t gotten any better.
President Biden’s order will hopefully clamp down on Big Tech’s ability to swallow up smaller competitors and accumulate our data. It also directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create rules “barring unfair methods of competition” that could harm smaller businesses. If there’s any part of this executive order that should be turned into legislation this is it.
4. We can get our devices fixed!
To take advantage of our neutral net, we need devices to surf it, and now maybe, just maybe, we can get all of these devices fixed instead of being forced to buy new ones. That’s because the executive order is asking the FTC to design rules that curb cellphone manufacturers’ onerous restrictions against repairs by independent shops or consumers. What a joy this would be. I would love to have more options for repairing our company-owned phones, tablets and laptops locally. I’m convinced that this will lower our technology costs and also contribute to a longer shelf life for our hardware. Apple is the worst offender of this practice, and recently the company’s co-founder Steve Wozniak indicated his support for the “right to repair” movement. The time has come.
5. Farmers can repair their equipment too
Speaking of repairs, the order also urges the FTC to limit farm equipment manufacturers from restricting repairs by independent shops or the farmers themselves. It’s the same issue as mentioned above. I’m not a farmer, but I get how this practice is costly and annoying. Thanks to all their so-called “complicated technology” and “proprietary materials” or other nonsense claimed by big farm equipment manufacturers, most smaller farmers are handcuffed whenever they need to make necessary repairs on their existing equipment. It’s why there’s such a hot market for used farm equipment. “All we’re looking for is the opportunity, as the owner, to fix what we own,” Tom Brandt, a Nebraska farmer, told the Wall Street Journal. Amen.
6. More places for farmers to sell
Speaking of farmers, the order also calls for more support to help them (and ranchers and small processing facilities) sell their goods in markets and other places currently restricted by the government’s onerous funding programs. This would help them expand their customer channels and drive more sources of revenue.
7. A relaxation of those ridiculous licensing rules
We’ve heard about all the excessive occupational licensing requirements levied on people who want to cut hair, sell flowers and provide both physical and emotional counseling. It’s clearly a revenue grab from the states, and it clearly limits the ability of many people to earn a living as independent contractors or freelancers.
President Biden’s order addresses that issue too. According to the Foundation for Free Economic Education’s Brad Polumbo “these laws serve only to stifle labor force participation and protect crony established interests from competition. One study found that onerous occupational licensing blocks 2.8 million jobs and costs consumers $203 billion a year in artificially high prices.” Good riddance to that.
8. Making the airlines pay
Finally, for business travelers, the order directs the Department of Transportation to clamp down on the airline industry’s avoidance of responsibility for lost baggage and broken inflight WIFI. As a business traveler, I say: thank you.
Of course, there are some provisions of the president’s executive order for which, as a business owner, I’m not exactly thrilled, the most significant (to me) being the potential ban on non-compete clauses in employee contracts. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from decades of running a business, it’s that you can’t have it all. So, I’ll take what I can get. And I like what I’m potentially getting by this order so far. I think many small business owners will agree.