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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.

How Oracle v. Google Magnifies Google’s Android Antitrust Vulnerabilities

1 Oracle v. Google case + 1 EU Android Tying Case = 3

While the U.S. Oracle v. Google Java API copyright case that will recommence in public court this month has been completely independent of the EU Google-Android antitrust case, in sovereign jurisdiction, type of law, legal process, timetable and alleged offense, these two cases ultimately could have huge, much underappreciated implications for each other, because they are both about the same thing -- purposeful illegal actions that Google chose to do to extend its search-related dominance into mobile via  Android.

Summary

NetCompetition Statement & Comments on FCC’s Anticompetitive AllVid NPRM

FCC’s AllVid NPRM Is Anticompetitive, Anticompetitive, Anticompetitive

 

WASHINGTON D.C. – The following quotes are based on NetCompetition’s submitted comments on the FCC’s AllVid NPRM and may be attributed to Scott Cleland, Chairman of NetCompetition:

“Think for a moment. Would anyone think it “pro-competitive” if a government agency mandated an “Unlock the Big Box Stores” ruling so that WalMart, Target, or Best Buy could no longer install effective doors, locks, security guards or anti-theft devices on their store perimeters to protect the value of their inventory, all so that Google, Amazon, or eBay could take it for free and then profit from selling it online?”

“The companies that comprise the ~$200b pay TV industry are the video programming functional equivalent of Big Box stores, and the FCC’s AllVid NPRM is the functional equivalent of a looters pardon.”

“Consider how the FCC’s “Unlock the Box” looters’ mantra is profoundly anticompetitive and destructive.

7 Top Takeaways from EU’s Google-Android-Tying Charges

The European Commission has charged Alphabet-Google with abusing its dominance in the market for “general Internet search services,” by implementing an Android “strategy of mobile devices to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general Internet search.” The EU objects to a variety of secret Google contract conditions to manufacturer licenses to leverage the dominant (>90% share) Android OS to secretly restrict and foreclose competition in ways that ultimately harm consumer choice and innovation. The EU effectively charged that Google has already anticompetitively extended its >90% dominance in search to dominance in the >90% share of the “licensable smart mobile operating system,” and to dominance in the >90% share of the “app stores for the Android” market.  

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.

FCC’s Apparent Arbitrary AllVid Proposal

Contradiction contradiction contradiction,” rather than “competition competition competition,” would be a more accurate description of what the FCC’s apparent arbitrary AllVid set-top-box proposal produces.

Contradiction #1: FCC rules cable competitive in 2015, but not in 2016.

In June 2015, the FCC ruledthat cable operators are subject to… "Competing Provider Effective Competition”” exempting cable from regulations, but in the spring of 2016, the FCC tentatively concludes that the ancillary cable set-top-box market is not competitive warranting maximal regulation.

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. 

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.

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