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Featured Article, ILSR Press Room filed under Independent Business | Written by Stacy Mitchell | No Comments | Updated on Jun 25, 2017

Amazon Is Trying to Control the Underlying Infrastructure of Our Economy

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/amazon-is-trying-to-control-the-underlying-infrastructure-of-our-economy/

Companies that want to reach the market increasingly have no choice but to ride Amazon’s rails.

This article was first published in VICE’s Motherboard.

We often talk about Amazon as though it were a retailer. It’s an understandable mistake. After all, Amazon sells more clothing, electronics, toys, and books than any other company. Last year, Amazon captured nearly $1 of every $2 Americans spent online. As recently as 2015, most people looking to buy something online started at a search engine. Today, a majority go straight to Amazon.

But to describe Amazon as a retailer is to misunderstand what the company actually is, and to miss the depth of the threat that it poses to our liberty and the very idea of an open, competitive market.

It’s not just that Amazon does many things besides sell stuff—that it manufactures thousands of products, from dress shirts to baby wipes, produces hit movies and television shows, delivers restaurant orders, offers loans, and may soon dispense prescription drugs. Jeff Bezos is after something so much bigger than any of this. His vision is for Amazon to control the underlying infrastructure of the economy. Amazon’s website is already the dominant platform for digital commerce. Its Web Services division controls 44 percent of the world’s cloud computing capacity and is relied on by everyone from Netflix to the Central Intelligence Agency. And the company has recently built out a vast network of distribution infrastructure to handle package delivery for itself and others.

Companies that want to reach the market increasingly have no choice but to ride Amazon’s rails. With Prime and digital assistant Alexa, from GE appliances to Ford cars, Bezos has lured a majority of households into making Amazon the default provider of everything they order online. Most Prime members no longer comparison shop. This has forced competitors of all sizes—from major brands like Levi’s and KitchenAid to small-scale producers, e-commerce innovators, and independent brick-and-mortar stores—to abandon the idea of reaching consumers directly. Instead, they have to rely on Amazon’s platform to sell their goods.

Amazon exploits this dependence to dictate terms and prices to suppliers, and it uses the data it gathers from companies selling on its platform to weaken them as competitors. A company that designs a popular product and builds a market for it on Amazon’s site can suddenly find that Amazon has introduced a nearly identical version and given it top billing in search results. One study found that, after a retailer becomes a seller on Amazon, it’s only a matter of weeks before Amazon brings the merchant’s most popular items into its own inventory.

Being both a direct retailer and a platform for other sellers gives Amazon novel weapons for shaking down suppliers. …

Continue reading:  Read the full article in Motherboard.

Related: Statement: Regulators Should Block Amazon’s Acquisition of Whole Foods

Featured Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Jul 24, 2017

Three Forces Fighting Local Renewable Energy and Three Ways to Fight Back

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/3-forces-fighting-local-renewable-energy/

If you’re reading energy news of late, you might have come across three new ways that forces are aligning against local renewable energy. State governments are increasingly pre-empting local authority on a range of issues, including energy. Utility companies are undercutting state regulation with their legislative lobbyists. And utilities are also bringing their monopoly market power to bear in previously competitive markets.

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Featured Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by Karlee Weinmann | No Comments | Updated on Jul 12, 2017

Slow-to-Accelerate EV Charging Program Provides Lessons for Improvement

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/xcel-energy-ev-charging-minnesota/

Minnesota’s largest investor-owned utility, Xcel Energy, last month reported sparse participation in a program designed to deliver value to customers who charge their electric vehicles when it’s most convenient for the grid. But despite its benefits for the grid and cost savings for customers, the initiative appears stuck in neutral.

By April 2017, a year and a half after its launch, just 95 Xcel customers had opted in to the state-mandated electric vehicle charging tariff. With nearly 1,000 plug-in vehicles registered to Minnesota drivers — a bulk of them likely in Xcel’s metro-area territory — participation numbers hover well below reasonable expectations. Why? Continue reading

Featured Article, Resource filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by Nick Stumo-Langer | No Comments | Updated on Jul 13, 2017

Local Solar Power: Red Plus Blue Makes a Green Tea Party – Episode 24 of the Building Local Power Podcast

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/local-solar-power-episode-24-of-the-building-local-power-podcast/

In this week’s episode of Building Local Power we interview Debbie Dooley, President of Conservatives for Energy Freedom and co-founder of the Green Tea Coalition in the southern United States. Dooley’s organizations promote “consumer choice in the energy field” to “provide competition” and stop monopolies from limiting their customer’s options in renewable energy. The Green… Continue reading

Featured Article, Resource filed under Broadband | Written by Christopher | No Comments | Updated on Jul 5, 2017

Access Appalachia: Internet Access for Rural America

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/access-appalachia-internet-access-for-rural-america/

Check back on MuniNetworks.org’s Resource Page frequently for updates to Internet access in the Appalachian region. This is the central hub for ILSR’s research on Internet access around the Appalachian United States. We have compiled federal statistics on broadband availability and federal subsidies for large Internet Service Providers. We’ve created detailed maps of 150 counties… Continue reading