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A Tale of Two Realities -- DOJ versus AT&T-Time Warner Merger

Sometimes it is easy to miss the forest for the trees.

That may be the case with the outlook for the DOJ v. AT&T-Time Warner case.

In this analysis, rather than recount the legal antitrust “trees” that have been well-argued in the DOJ’s complaint brief and AT&T-Time Warner’s defense brief, and the rule of law “tree” I analyzed initially, it is important to focus on how this case is highly-unusual in one characteristic, and that characteristic begs us to try and examine the forest not the trees.

What is highly-unusual about this precedent-driven case is the Judge, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Richard J. Leon.

Google’s Government Influence Nixed Competition for Winner-Take All Results

Facts are stubborn things.

Know what one finds when one puts the evidence of Google’s many antitrust, IP, and privacy offenses into one telling timeline of what Google did from 2008-2017?

One sees a tale of two terms. Commendably, the evidence shows the first Obama Administration term featured very tough antitrust, IP, and privacy law enforcement against Google. Sadly, the second term was the direct opposite – featuring virtually no antitrust, IP, or privacy law enforcement against Google.

Know what one finds when one overlays the telling timeline of improper influence of Google’s Government Guardians, i.e. senior Google executives and outside counsels placed in all the right places to protect and advance Google’s business -- with the timeline of Google’s antitrust, IP, and privacy law enforcement problems?

One can see predictable patterns. Shortly after Google Guardians show up, those Google’s government problems go away. Same administration, different personnel, near completely opposite outcomes. It’s a quintessential example of the old Washington adage that “personnel is policy.”

Asymmetric Absurdity in Communications Law & Regulation

You can’t make this stuff up.

Asymmetric Realities: The five most valuable companies – Apple $802b, Alphabet-Google $688b, Microsoft $585b, Facebook $500b, and Amazon $475b – are together worth an unprecedented $3 trillion and widely-appreciated to be dominant in the communications-driven businesses of smartphones, search advertising, subscription business productivity software, social advertising, and ecommerce platform services respectively.

In Washington’s theater of the absurd, these well-known, winner-take-all platforms, are playing the role of victims of potential harms, that supposedly can’t afford to shoulder the potential risks for the potential net neutrality problems that they allege are potentially serious, when they produce $131b annually in free cash flow and have $357b in cash (mostly overseas).

How the Internet Cartel Won the Internet and The Internet Competition Myth

Summary: The substantial evidence catalogued here provides proof of the Internet’s cartelization, extreme concentration, winner-take-all tendencies, and mythical competition. The public data shows that the tacit Internet cartel of Google, Amazon and Facebook is 7-8 times more concentrated than the top three offline companies and that the top ten Internet economy companies are >10 times more concentrated than the top ten offline economy companies.

Public data that Google, Amazon, and Facebook have acquired ~350 potential competitors and the Internet Association overall has acquired ~900 potential competitors, indicates that the apparent cartelization of Internet companies’ investment, acquisition, and innovation processes ensure no innovative “garage startup” has a plausible competitive opportunity to seriously threaten the Internet cartel’s dominance.

Public data also ironically shows that almost all the Internet Association’s members are anti-competitively threatened by one of more of the Google, Amazon, or Facebook, winner-take-all online onslaughts.

U.S. antitrust authorities have enabled a cartelized and extremely concentrated Internet by taking their eye off the purpose of antitrust law -- protecting the process of competition, by first protecting the process of innovation by dominant online platforms.

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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 Internet Association Proves Extreme U.S. Internet Market Concentration

Those who think the U.S. Internet market is competitive, and not extremely concentrated, need to read on.

In a nutshell, for the first time, publicly available evidence shows that the cumulative effect of well-known “winner-take-all” platforms (WTAPs) Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft, is a “four-winners-take-all Internet sector.” Four different dominant platforms collectively command ~80% of overall Internet market share in revenues, new absolute annual revenues generated, market capitalization, and employees.

Imagine if the 94% of the economy that is offline-based, were as extremely concentrated as the 6% of the economy that is online-based/the Internet sector, per the Internet Association.

That would be an offline economy with basically one information company, one sharing company, one retailer, and one business software company, that collectively commanded 80% revenue share of the 94% of the economy that is offline based with ~4,000 publicly traded companies.

HBO’s John Oliver needs a 'net neutrality' reality check – The Hill Op-ed

 

Please don’t miss my latest The Hill Op-ed: “HBO’s John Oliver needs a 'net neutrality' reality check.”

 

Internet giants, not broadband providers, are the top threat to consumers – The Hill Op-ed

Please don’t miss my latest The Hill Op-ed: “Internet giants, not broadband providers, are the top threat to consumers”.

 

 

Google Fiber Pivots to Be Wireless ISP & FCC Spectrum Access Administrator

Don’t miss Google’s enduring big wireless ISP ambitions in the midst of all the noise and confusion about the future of Google Fiber.

And also don’t miss Google’s grand ambitions to organize and dominate America’s spectrum-related information via its certification as a key FCC Spectrum Access System Administrator, given how little public attention it has gotten to date.

Google continues to pivot its Internet access ambitions away from deploying capital-expensive fiber technology deployment to deploying much-less-capital-expensive unlicensed wireless access technology, which does not require digging and burying fiber, and which may only use free unlicensed spectrum.

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.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths