Confining Microsoft will rejuvenate Web competition

Microsoft suffered an important defeat Monday when U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled in favor of the federal government and 19 states on charges the software giant used its monopoly to stifle competition. In his ruling, Jackson states that Microsoft violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by “unlawfully tying its Web browser to its operating system.” Although the software giant’s chairman, Bill Gates, will undoubtedly appeal — as he has said he will — to prevent any proposed sanction from being implemented for months, Jackson’s landmark ruling is a welcome sign that Microsoft’s monopolistic tendencies will be hindered and competition rejuvenated.
In responding to the decision, Gates accused the government of attempting to regulate the Internet by attacking his company. While Gates correctly says the Web should be free of federal regulation, a freedom to which he attributes the industry’s vigor in the past few years, he mistakenly says the Department of Justice is trying to regulate the industry itself. The federal government is simply monitoring a corporation’s conduct, or in this case, misconduct. Indeed, the government has an obligation to ensure every company participates fairly in the free market economy.
Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890 to prevent large corporations and conglomerates from putting any restraints on free trade or commerce among the states or with foreign nations. One of the federal government’s purposes is to protect the freedoms of its constituents, including businesses. Jackson’s ruling demonstrates to corporations that no matter how powerful they become, they must still be held accountable for not following the rules.