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Antitrust

The Obvious Google-Android Antitrust Case the DOJ & FTC Are Ignoring

Awkward.

EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager -- who formally has charged Google with abusing its search monopoly, and who also is formally investigating Google’s alleged contractual tying of its monopoly search app to create a monopoly Android operating system -- speaks Friday at the ABA antitrust spring meeting in D.C. on a panel with DOJ antitrust chief William Baer and FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, at the awkward juncture when the EU is escalating its antitrust prosecution of Google while America’s DOJ and FTC apparently are ignoring the obvious antitrust case they know they have against Google.

In a nutshell, the obvious antitrust case against Google is this: the DOJ and FTC have long established Google is a monopoly demanding antitrust vigilance; U.S v. Microsoft settled that a licensed OS market definition excluding Apple is reasonable and that tying a monopoly OS to a strategic app harms consumers and innovation; Google’s contractual tying of its monopoly search to a nascent Android OS is a mirror image of what DOJ already proved monopolistic in U.S. v. Microsoft; Google apparently has monopolized mobile search and search advertising and prompted its only competitors, Yahoo and Microsoft Bing, to give up seriously competing with Google; and now the potential harms to consumers and innovation are escalating as Google is attempting to extend its Android mobile OS monopoly economy-wide to monopolize the Internet of Things.

AllVid: FCC-Sponsored Piracy Would Extend Google’s Monopoly & Monopsony

Google is the only major corporation publicly pressuring the FCC to require that all owners of proprietary video programming rights give away their valuable video property for free to Google and other companies online.

It is telling that to date no other major corporation has been willing to risk their brand publicly advocating for FCC-sponsored piracy to forcibly redistribute corporate wealth from Big Content to FCC-BFF-Google.

The evidence in this analysis will show that Google is the only entity in the world that has both the long-stated mission, i.e. “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” and the global monopoly power and corporate functional capabilities to fully commercially exploit this FCC-sponsored piracy proposal.

What EU & Google Signals Are Telling Us about EU-Google Antitrust Outcomes

The recent comments and actions of the EU’s top antitrust enforcer, combined with recent drastic actions by Google, speak volumes about the tough EU antitrust outcomes Google faces going forward. While the Brussels-based media appreciate the serious antitrust risk Google faces in the EU, it is not clear whether the U.S.-based media or investors are paying much attention -- yet.

In a nutshell, recent signals from the EU and Google suggest that the conventional wisdom in the U.S. and among investors is underestimating the real antitrust risk to Google in imagining there ultimately will be a relatively benign settlement or just a fine, and not appreciating the EU’s likely Prohibition Decision remedy will impose a non-discrimination/neutrality duty against anticompetitive self-dealing, which could result in significant to substantial changes to Google’s business model and operations -- potentially globally.

The Apparent Androidopoly Antitrust Case

Few outside of Alphabet-Google understand the immense market, economic, and technological power of an unaccountable monopoly over the underlying software that controls most all mobile devices in the world. Fortunately EU antitrust enforcers are some of the few who understand it.

Android, Alphabet-Google’s licensable mobile operating system, is an apparent EU/global monopoly facing an apparent EU antitrust case in its future.

This analysis explains why Android is a monopoly for antitrust purposes; what the crux of the Android antitrust case is; and why such a case would enjoy a uniquely solid foundation. 

FCC’s Arbitrary Competition Policy -- Edge Platforms Can’t Be Gatekeepers?

Looking backwards makes it hard to see what’s right in front of you.

Looking backwards at 1934-era Title II telephone utility law, the FCC concluded in its 2015 Open Internet Order that only broadband providers could be “gatekeepers” warranting net neutrality regulation to “protect and promote the “virtuous cycle” that drives innovation and investment on the Internet.

That’s because the FCC is apparently oblivious to the very different 21st century communications “gatekeepers” right in front of them that command dramatically more potential “gatekeeper” market power than any broadband provider.

The FCC should listen to what one 21st century communications provider, which commands well over a billion social and communications users globally, has to say about the dominance of edge platforms.

Search + Android + Chrome = Google’s Gatekeeper Inner-net Regime

Wake up world, you’ve been disintermediated.

Google now essentially stands between you and most everyone and everything on the Internet.

Google’s dominant search engine + its dominant Android operating system (OS) + its world-leading Chrome web browser + its uniquely-comprehensive, Internet utility functionality of 193 products, services and tools = a virtual Google “Inner-net” regime.

Google’s Inner-net has practically assimilated most all of what the public open-source WorldWideWeb does for Internet users and much, much, more. And it also has practically insinuated Google-controlled code into a virtual intermediary position between most everyone and most everything on the Internet.

The FCC’s Googleopoly Gatekeeper Navigation Device Set-up

It’s the FCC-forcing-proprietary-video-to-be-free-to-Google stupid!

That’s a Jim Carville-esque paraphrase of the FCC’s AllVid commercial navigation device proposal to focus the mind.

The FCC spins its AllVid proposal as pro-competition in isolation when in reality the evidence will prove it profoundly anticompetitive overall.

Questioning Google’s Extraordinary Influence over U.S. Government Decisions

Does the impartial administration of justice, the integrity of the U.S. Government, and the oath of all federal employees to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, require that private interests not be allowed to supplant the public interest?

Why Google Can’t Criticize EU Much for Ruling it Dominant & Anticompetitive

In the next several weeks, expect the EC’s Competition Directorate to decide that Google is in fact dominant with >90% share of Internet search in Europe and that Google has abused its search dominance by biasing its own Shopping service over competitors. It also could formally charge Google for abuse of its search dominance in contractually tying Google Search and other search-driven apps like Maps, YouTube, etc. to Android to extend its search dominance to mobile search and to the operating system market where Android now owns >80% share.

In taking a most extreme and ultimately indefensible legal and PR position, that the EU antitrust case is “wrong as a matter of fact, law and economics,” Google has painted itself into a corner, PR-wise and politically, much more than many appreciate. Why?

FCC’s AllVid Proposal Is Really The Great Google Ad Grab

While the PR cover story of the FCC’s AllVid proposal may be about more consumer choice and competition to reduce the cost of cable set-top boxes, don’t be fooled.

In announcing it, the FCC Chairman admits there’s already consumer choice aplenty: “American consumers enjoy unprecedented choice in how they view entertainment, news and sports programming. You can pretty much watch what you want, where you want, when you want.”

And the AllVid proposal is not about saving consumers money.

If it were, the FCC would not be shunning the obvious, best and cheapest solution of replacing the need for a set-top box entirely, by modernly and naturally transitioning them to the sector norm of easily-downloadable, cheap/free apps.

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