By Noah Rothstein


On July 9, President Joe Biden signed a broad executive order aiming to promote competitive markets across the U.S. economy and limit corporate dominance that the White House says puts consumers, workers, and smaller companies at a disadvantage.


The executive order laid out a detailed plan to address what the Biden administration sees as trouble spots across industries, from everyday consumer concerns like hearing aids and baggage fees to larger issues like antitrust regulations for internet platforms.


This latest effort by President Biden creates a road map for U.S. agencies to follow to push back against corporate consolidation and business practices that might stifle competition and lead to higher prices and fewer product choices.


Among the White House’s targets are agriculture, healthcare, shipping, transportation, and technology, as well as labor practices that the administration says limit wages and mobility.


The executive order also seeks to promote affordable broadband and boost consumers’ rights to repair products they own, an issue of concern to the administration because of limitations imposed by an array of companies.


“Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation,” President Biden said before signing the order. “Without healthy competition, big players can change and charge whatever they want, and treat you however they want. And for too many Americans that means accepting a bad deal for things that you can’t go without.”


Incompas, a Washington association representing smaller network operators, welcomed the executive order’s focus on competition in apartment buildings and condominiums.


“We are pleased to see President Biden take action to stop broadband monopolies in apartment buildings and condo complexes, where 30% of Americans live,” Incompas Chief Executive Chip Pickering said in a statement.


The order’s targeting of the technology industry jeopardizes “free services that consumers use to message and call loved ones, get directions, connect with healthcare professionals, consume online content—including news and educational content—and much more,” said TechNet, a group that represents senior industry executives.


Others in the business world stand to benefit if the Biden administration follows through on the order, and small-business groups, merchants, and farmers voiced support for it.


The American Farm Bureau Federation said the president’s plan creates opportunities to address industry imbalances. 

“More opportunities for farmers and ranchers to sell their products will ensure they are paid fairly while providing more options for America’s families,” said Zippy Duvall, the group’s president.


Several pieces of the executive order could provide a springboard for plans already developing at some government agencies, especially the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which shares antitrust authority with the Justice Department.


The order encouraged the FTC to write first-ever rules barring certain types of allegedly anticompetitive practices, including “unfair competition in major internet marketplaces,” according to the White House. President Biden’s new head of the FTC, Lina Khan, has previously voiced support for such efforts. Antitrust action will likely spark a partisan battle on the five-member commission, as Democrats and Republicans disagree on the extent of the agency’s legal authority.


The executive order also encouraged the FTC to regulate large technology platforms by establishing rules on “unfair data collection and surveillance practices.”


President Biden encouraged the Federal Maritime Commission, the agency that regulates shipping, and the Surface Transportation Board, which regulates railroads, to combat what the Biden administration sees as a pattern of consolidation and aggressive pricing that has made it expensive for American companies to transport goods to market.


The Association of American Railroads denounced President Biden’s initiative. Chief Executive Ian Jefferies said a proposal that would allow shippers served by a single railroad to request bids from competing railroads would undermine the “market-driven principle that keeps the industry viable.”


The order also directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate pricing disclosures, contract termination fees, and deals between providers and landlords, which the White House says limit broadband options for tenants.