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FCC’s Competition Policy Blind Spot for Dominant “Edge” Incumbents - GAFA
Submitted by Scott Cleland on Tue, 2016-06-14 11:03
The evidence increasingly proves that Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, companies collectively known as “GAFA,” are the dominant consumer-technology, “edge” platforms/incumbents in their respective communication sector markets of: information, smartphones, social media, and ecommerce.
The evidence below shows Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon to clearly be the emerging dominant communications incumbents of the 21st century communications sector ecosystem and that an apparent FCC assumption that “edge” companies cannot be a competition problem is both naïve and erroneous.
Despite the FCC’s “competition, competition, competition” policy mantra, this GAFA dominance reality has not kept the FCC from slavishly favoring the dominant GAFA incumbents, as “insurgent” upstarts deserving of special FCC treatment and protection, in all of the FCC’s current major communications policy revamps it is making without Congress: i.e. its Title II Open Internet Order; its Title II ISP-only privacy rules; its AllVid set-top box rules; and its implicit wireless policy of favoring spectrum sharing and unlicensed spectrum over spectrum auctions and licensing.
Consider this Top Ten List of evidence that the dominant GAFA incumbents are not needy “insurgents” deserving of FCC protection from competition or de facto regulatory subsidies worth many tens of billions of dollars.
In sum, the evidence is overwhelming that Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon are dominant 21st century incumbents in their respective communications sector markets of information, smartphones, social media and ecommerce.
To the extent that the FCC is claiming lack of competition as its rationale and justification for vastly more FCC regulation, the FCC can’t be consistent or credible if the FCC ignores the proverbial elephant in the FCC’s room -- that Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon are vastly more dominant and have more potential for anticompetitive behavior than any traditionally regulated communications company.
Simply, if the FCC is sincere about wanting to “modernize” communications policy for the 21st century, it needs a more modern and accurate assessment of 21st century competition realities throughout the ever-expanding 21st century communications sector.
Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, an emergent enterprise risk consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, some of which are Google competitors, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” Cleland has testified before both the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google and also before the relevant House oversight subcommittee on Google’s privacy problems.