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Antitrust

The EU-Google Antitrust Cases’ Implications for Amazon Facebook & Apple

The EU’s recent intense antitrust spotlight on Google can’t help but illuminate some of what EU antitrust authorities think about other dominant consumer technology platforms adjacent to Google -- i.e. Amazon, Facebook, and Apple – companies Europe collectively refers to as “GAFA” particularly in the context of the EU’s Digital Single Market strategy.

In 2011, Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt was the first to identify, and publicly bring attention to, these particular four dominant consumer technology companies “exploiting platform strategies” ironically by branding them the “gang of four.

The EU Strategy behind its Three Google Antitrust Cases

With the EU’s new advertising antitrust charges against Google, the EU has now issued three Google abuse-of-dominance Statement of Objections covering search, mobile, and advertising, that actually span seven separately defined antitrust markets in the EU.   

So what does this strategically-critical new EU-Google advertising Statement of Objections -- that builds upon the other two statements of objection – finally tell us about the EU’s overall Google antitrust strategy?

What EU-Google Advertising Antitrust Charges Mean for the FTC

Of the three EU antitrust cases against Google (search bias in shopping, Android tying, and soon search-advertising-tying), the expected new search-advertising case -- which focuses on how Google has long contractually required websites to use Google’s search advertising if they use Google search -- could be the hardest EU-Google antitrust case for the FTC to ignore, for the reasons below.

Summary of Why It’s Hard for FTC to Ignore the EU Search-Advertising Antitrust Case:

1. The FTC has been following the EU’s antitrust lead.

2. The FTC’s Google 2012 staff report agrees with the EU’s conclusion on search advertising.

3. The DOJ threatened a 2008 monopolization case over Google’s search advertising syndication.

NetCompetition on Judge Williams Dissent in Appeals Court Upholding FCC

June 14, 2016, Contact:  Scott Cleland 703-217-2407

Judge Williams Dissent in USTelecom v. FCC Lays Bare the Competition Problems With Both the Appeals Court Decision and the FCC’s Open Internet Order

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

“There are big competition policy problems with the DC Court of Appeals 2-1 decision upholding the FCC’s 3-2 Open Internet Order that appear destined for the Supreme Court and Congress to ultimately resolve.”

“The court’s decision appears to effectively grant an FCC majority of three unelected commissioners with largely unfettered power to arbitrarily pick winners and losers in the competitive communications and Internet marketplaces without much administrative due process, explanation, justification, evidence or reasoned analysis.”  

FCC’s Competition Policy Blind Spot for Dominant “Edge” Incumbents - GAFA

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. 

Why Google Can’t Buy Yahoo’s Search & Advertising Patents

Given that Google bought Motorola for its patents to protect itself from patent litigation, many assume Alphabet-Google to be a likely bidder and buyer of Yahoo’s reported sale of its portfolio of ~3,000 1990s search, advertising and ecommerce patents.

Au contraire, big antitrust vulnerabilities and a decade of Googlian hostility to the intellectual property rights of competitors effectively rule them out of this Yahoo auction.

Google’s lawyers have to appreciate that Google bidding on Yahoo’s patents would self-shine antitrust spotlights exactly where Google does not want them shined, and would attract attention to Google’s ignominious pattern of disrespect for the property of competitors and the bloody trail of intellectual property infringement lawsuits Google has uniquely provoked over the last fourteen years.

Why Google can’t buy Yahoo’s search, advertising & ecommerce patents.

Google-Android’s Strategy to Monopolize Home Digital Information & Services

Every company and industry competitor currently serving and targeting the digital home marketplace doesn’t know they are largely surrounded, but they are.

If one organizes and pieces together the many related things Google intimated at its I/O developer conference last month, especially about Google’s big advantage in conversational AI voice, with what we already know about what Google has already achieved and is doing, what kind of Google digital home strategy becomes clear?

The assembled pieces showcase a discernible big picture of an exceptionally comprehensive Google-Android strategy to try and monopolize the integrated connectivity of home automation (i.e. digital information, products and services) over time via: its strong advantage in conversational AI voice interface, Android dominance, and its proliferating OS tentacles -- very much like Google did with mobile search and search-related information, products, and services in increasingly dominating consumer digital services over the last decade.

Google’s Growing US Search/Android Share Complicates FCC’s AllVid Proposal

[Note: this blog was submitted to the FCC as a reply comment in the AllVid Set Top Box NPRM.]

As more evidence comes to light exposing Google’s much increased search and Android dominance in the U.S. since the FTC closed its search and Android antitrust probes in January 2013, it only becomes clearer that the FCC’s AllVid proposed rulemaking to “Unlock the [set-top] Box” is obviously anticompetitive overall, not pro-competitive as the FCC naively claims.

(A brief context refresh is needed here. In a nutshell, Google is the primary impetus behind the FCC’s controversial AllVid set top box proposal that would force U.S. pay-TV providers to effectively open-source  cable set-top boxes and the $200b worth of proprietary video programming/information that flows through them, so that Google and other edge platforms could monetize that proprietary video programming without a license -- for free.

The Trust Ramifications of an EU-Google Search Bias Conviction

The Sunday Telegraph reports that the EU is poised to fine Google an EU record ~€3b for “web search monopoly abuse” and that “Google will be banned from continuing to manipulate search results to favour itself and harm rivals.

Assuming this occurs in the reported June-July timeframe, and just like the EU’s 2015 Statement of Objections charged, the long-term ramifications for Google will be much broader and more serious than most appreciate.

Goobris: Google Expecting Less Privacy Regulation than its Competitors

Why does the company that by far collects the most private information that the FCC claims it wants to protect, and that also has the worst consumer privacy protection record with the FTC, (Google), get 99% exempted from the telecom and cable privacy protections expected of telephone, broadband, cable and satellite providers?  

Is it the same reason, that the edge platforms with much more gatekeeper power and private data collection opportunity than ISPs somehow warrant no FCC privacy regulation? (See info-graphic here; explanation here.)

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