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Buying WhatsApp Tipped Facebook to Monopoly; Why Didn’t FTC Probe Purchase?

Anyone concerned with the anticompetitive state of digital advertising, and how to fix it, should focus like a laser on the circumstances surrounding the 2014 FTC’s pass on formally investigating if the Facebook-WhatsApp acquisition would “substantially lessen competition” under the Clayton Antitrust Act.

That obvious FTC mistake in hindsight, triggered a winner-take-all domino effect that not only tipped Facebook to a social advertising monopoly, but also tipped the overall digital advertising market to the anticompetitive digital advertising cartel that evidently predominates today.

Some brief context is helpful here. This big 2014 FTC mistake was the fourth of a pattern of big anticompetitive FTC mistakes concerning the digital advertising marketplace over the last decade.  

What Happened Since FTC Secretly Shut 2012 Google-Android Antitrust Probe?

If only the 2012 FTC appreciated “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” the Simons-FTC would not be left to treat and contain the now evident, out-of-control, Androidopoly epidemic.

Google’s 2012 search-syndication monopoly scale has rapidly metastasized Google’s market power in scope to: Android licensable OS, Google Play app store, Google Location Services, Chrome browser, Google Maps, and YouTube video.

Lax 2013-2017 FTC antitrust enforcement has consequences.

NetCompetition: Google & Softbank Are the Impetus Behind a Nationalized 5G Wireless Network

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, January 29, 2018, Contact: Scott Cleland 703-217-2407

 

The Primary Beneficiaries of America Nationalizing a 5G Wireless Information Highway Would Be: Google’s Monopoly Information Access, Android Mobile Operating System, & Google Maps/Waze; and SoftBank’s ~$60b holdings in China’s Alibaba & $100b Telecom/Tech Venture Fund

 

WASHINGTON D.C. – The following may be attributed to Scott Cleland, Chairman of NetCompetition:

 

“An analysis of the Axios-reported memo proposing to build a nationalized 5G wireless network makes it clear that Alphabet-Google and SoftBank are the moving force behind it. The proposal obviously would benefit their interests first and foremost and it goes in the exact direction they have lobbied for over the last several years.”

 

“It is especially ironic and troubling that Softbank and Alphabet-Google are the apparent impetus behind this proposal for a secure wireless transportation network to compete with China and be secure from Chinese snooping.

 

The Trump DOJ “Slam Dunk” Antitrust Case Against Alphabet-Google

What’s quintessential illegal monopoly behavior?

A dominant company that is proactively, consistently, and purposefully focused on eliminating most of its business competition, not just competing on the merits, but also via illegal collusion, predation, anti-competitive acquisition, and obstruction of justice.

That quintessential illegal monopoly behavior belongs to Alphabet-Google 2007-2017.

The public evidences of Google’s patterns of collusion, predation, anti-competitive acquisition, and obstruction of law enforcement are substantial and hiding in plain sight.

They are just waiting for DOJ antitrust leadership, investigators and prosecutors to connect the dots in an up-to-date theory of the case, after organizing and synthesizing the substantial investigative evidence that already resides in the DOJ’s and FTC’s antitrust files, because of ten different U.S. Google antitrust-related investigations of Google by either the DOJ or FTC from 2007-2013.

In addition, some law enforcement conclusions and actions involving Google from 2007-2013 have been proved either wrong or ineffective with the benefit of hindsight, that now need to be addressed.

The Key Competitive Facts behind the AT&T-Time-Warner Acquisition

This analysis of the competitive facts underlying AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner is an outgrowth of my discussion of the acquisition on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show this morning with Cecilia Kang of the New York Times and John Bergmeyer of Public Knowledge. The show can be heard here.

My main point was that the competitive facts are the best friend of this transaction.

I elaborate on that conclusion below.

The key facts lead me to believe the transaction should and will be approved, most likely by the DOJ, because of: the antitrust-benign competitive share facts in all the relevant markets; the antitrust precedents that constrain the DOJ’s ability to successfully challenge in court a vertical merger with these benign shares; and the companies have signaled they understand that if any legitimate competitive concerns arise they can be mitigated successfully with conditions and DOJ oversight of the transaction.    

If officials examine the competitive facts of this acquisition with an open mind and with due process, they’ll discover first impressions can be very misleading.

Google’s Information Is Power – Info-opoly Power

Who thinks it wise to allow a single company to corner the global market for any set of critical inputs to the global economy -- like stocks, bonds, currencies, industrial metals, precious metals, energy resources, grains, food, or livestock -- with no regulatory oversight, transparency or obligation to be an honest broker?   

Why then, if “information is power” in commerce, society, and governing, has the world allowed Google to anti-competitively corner the global market for the world’s information?

To spotlight this extraordinary risk and exceptional lapse in sovereign accountability, my new research provides new insight into how Google has become the most powerful commercial monopoly the modern world has ever seen.  

Appeals Court Blasts Big Deregulatory Hole between FCC & FTC Jurisdictions

FCC and FTC meet the law of unintended consequences.

A Ninth Circuit Court decision overturned an FTC enforcement action against AT&T for “throttling” broadband data speeds by definitively ruling that the FTC did not have any legal jurisdiction over AT&T (and other common carriers) because of the explicit common carrier exemption in the FTC’s core Section 5 legal authority.

FCC Privacy Regulation Claims: “Believe it or not!”

With due credit to "Ripley's Believe it or Not!®,"so much odd and bizarre is happening at the FCC in the "name" of “privacy” that the topic calls for its own collection of: "Believe it or Not!®" oddities.

Title II Privacy Proposed Rules

The FCC claims consumer privacy is important, but preempted existing FTC privacy regulation of broadband providers before they had any replacement privacy protections in place, so U.S. broadband consumers have been left without any federal privacy protection for over a year! 

7 Huge Flaws in FCC’s Title II Privacy NPRM; NetCompetition Comments

Summary: It is rare for an FCC proceeding to be so wrong-headed and ill-conceived that it has seven huge flaws. Tellingly this one does.

 

  1. The FCC is trying to force-fit inherently-irreconcilable, telephone closed-ecosystem privacy rules into its opposite -- a broadband open-system Internet.

  2. This approach is so convoluted and confusing there is no way for an average consumer to understand what part of their privacy is or is not now protected by the FCC and what part is or is not protected by the FTC.

  3. For privacy, the FCC’s Title II decision has been perversely subtractive in eliminating all FTC broadband consumer privacy protections, during the year-plus period while the FCC tries to figure out what FCC consumer privacy protections will be.  

Why Is the FCC Regulating the Biggest Privacy Risk Platforms the Least?

The epic flaw in the FCC’s Title II privacy NPRM is that it purports to best protect consumers’ private information by only regulating broadband providers’ use of that private information, while emphatically protecting dominant edge platforms from FCC privacy regulation when they use that same FCC-regulated private information indiscriminately without consumers’ meaningful knowledge or consent.

Yes you read that right.

Apparently the FCC thinks it is more important to protect dominant edge platforms from FCC privacy regulation, than it is to protect consumers’ private information.

The issue of privacy lays bare the FCC’s contorted and arbitrary logic of both its Title II cleave that only ISPs can be gatekeepers, and that the goal of net neutrality, protecting dominant edge platforms from ISP interference, is logical and appropriate to apply to privacy. If it was, that would perversely mean that the purpose of the FCC’s privacy rules should be to protect edge providers’ businesses, not consumers’ privacy.  

If you want to see a visual representation of this problem, please see the attached one-page graphic here.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths