LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Healthy competition builds success in tech industry

Here in the Tar Heel state, the bedrock of our economy is built upon the competitive drive of North Carolinians. Competition brings out the best in people because it drives innovation and dedication to one’s work.

In 2004, I founded Uwharrie Technology, a tech company based in Albemarle, just under an hour from Charlotte. Until my retirement in 2019, I witnessed firsthand the positive impact competition has had on the success of tech companies in our state and how it has allowed companies to innovate further and grow their business.

I have also seen the repercussions of a monopoly and how it can stifle competition and innovation for companies in North Carolina’s tech industry. My company provided design and digital management services to businesses based in Charlotte’s tech hub and around the state.

I used to hear the stories from our clients about the harmful anti-competitive tactics dominant platforms impose and how these tactics prevent growth. For the Tar Heel tech industry to compete on a level playing field, dominant platforms, like Apple, must have their anti-competitive practices reigned in.

Companies like Apple have unfairly set the rules of the road to drive the success of their own business with no regard for innovation or entrepreneurial ambitions of smaller companies looking to gain a foot in the online digital marketplace. There are countless examples of how Apple has imposed anti-competitive practices, like the use of their marketplace dominance to favor their own products or the 15-30 percent transaction fee forced on developers for every purchase made through its App Store. No matter the industry, any business would tell you that having 30 percent of your primary revenue taken off the top would not be sustainable for long-term growth and further investment into your product.

Currently, there is a solution that would address these monopolistic practices being debated in the halls of Congress, called the Open App Markets Act.

The Open App Markets Act is a bipartisan, bicameral proposal that would level the playing field for tech companies in the online digital marketplace by preventing app platforms from forcing companies to use their in-app payment systems and banning dominant gatekeepers from using their in-app payment systems self-preferencing their products.

If passed, this legislation would enhance competition for North Carolina tech companies and break down the barriers which prevent competition and innovation.

I have been in the industry long enough to know that competition brings out the best in everyone. It is one of the reasons North Carolina has become a premier destination for the country’s leading tech developers and why they experience monumental success in the Tar Heel state.

I urge our Congressional delegation to support the Open App Markets Act to provide a level playing field and promote healthy competition in the digital marketplace.

Gerald W. Poplin
Albemarle