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Net neutrality and Trinko

Popular Media Commentators who see Trinko as an impediment to the claim that antitrust law can take care of harmful platform access problems (and thus that prospective rate . . .

Commentators who see Trinko as an impediment to the claim that antitrust law can take care of harmful platform access problems (and thus that prospective rate regulation (i.e., net neutrality) is not necessary), commit an important error in making their claim–and it is a similar error committed by those who advocate for search neutrality regulation, as well.  In both cases, proponents are advocating for a particular remedy to an undemonstrated problem, rather than attempting to assess whether there is really a problem in the first place.  In the net neutrality context, it may be true that Trinko would prevent the application of antitrust laws to mandate neutral access as envisioned by Free Press, et al.  But that is not the same as saying Trinko precludes the application of antitrust laws.  In fact, there is nothing in Trinko that would prevent regulators and courts from assessing the anticompetitive consequences of particular network management decisions undertaken by a dominant network provider.  This is where the concerns do and should lie–not with an aesthetic preference for a particular form of regulation putatively justified as a response to this concern.  Indeed, “net neutrality” as an antitrust remedy, to the extent that it emanates from essential facilities arguments, is and should be precluded by Trinko.

But the Court seems to me to be pretty clear in Trinko that an antitrust case can be made, even against a firm regulated under the Telecommunications Act:

Section 601(b)(1) of the 1996 Act is an antitrust-specific saving clause providing that “nothing in this Act or the amendments made by this Act shall be construed to modify, impair, or supersede the applicability of any of the antitrust laws.”  This bars a finding of implied immunity. As the FCC has put the point, the saving clause preserves those “claims that satisfy established antitrust standards.”

But just as the 1996 Act preserves claims that satisfy existing antitrust standards, it does not create new claims that go beyond existing antitrust standards; that would be equally inconsistent with the saving clause’s mandate that nothing in the Act “modify, impair, or supersede the applicability” of the antitrust laws.

There is no problem assessing run of the mill anticompetitive conduct using “established antitrust standards.”  But that doesn’t mean that a net neutrality remedy can be constructed from such a case, nor does it mean that precisely the same issues that proponents of net neutrality seek to resolve with net neutrality are necessarily cognizable anticompetitive concerns.

For example, as Josh noted the other day, quoting Tom Hazlett, proponents of net neutrality seem to think that it should apply indiscriminately against even firms with no monopoly power (and thus no ability to inflict consumer harm in the traditional antitrust sense).  Trinko (along with a vast quantity of other antitrust precedent) would prevent the application of antitrust laws to reach this conduct–and thus, indeed, antitrust and net neutrality as imagined by its proponents are not coextensive.  I think this is very much to the good.  But, again, nothing in Trinko or elsewhere in the antitrust laws would prohibit an antitrust case against a dominant firm engaged in anticompetitive conduct just because it was also regulated by the FCC.

Critics point to language like this in Trinko to support their contrary claim:

One factor of particular importance is the existence of a regulatory structure designed to deter and remedy anticompetitive harm. Where such a structure exists, the additional benefit to competition provided by antitrust enforcement will tend to be small, and it will be less plausible that the antitrust laws contemplate such additional scrutiny.

But I don’t think that helps them at all.  What the Court is saying is not that one regulatory scheme precludes the other, but rather that if a regulatory scheme mandates conduct that makes the actuality of anticompetitive harm less likely, then the application of necessarily-imperfect antitrust law is likely to do more harm than good.  Thus the Court notes that

The regulatory framework that exists in this case demonstrates how, in certain circumstances, “regulation significantly diminishes the likelihood of major antitrust harm.”

But this does not say that regulation precludes the application of antitrust law.  Nor does it preclude the possibility that antitrust harm can still exist; nor does it suggest that any given regulatory regime reduces the likelihood of any given anticompetitive harm–and if net neutrality proponents could show that the regulatory regime did not in fact diminish the likelihood of antitrust harm, nothing in Trinko would suggest that antitrust should not apply.

So let’s get out there and repeal that FCC net neutrality order and let antitrust deal with any problems that might arise.

Filed under: antitrust, essential facilities, exclusionary conduct, monopolization, net neutrality, technology Tagged: Competition law, FCC, Federal Communications Commission, Free Press, Monopoly, net neutrality, Network neutrality, regulation, Telecommunications Act

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

Welcome to Net Neutrality

Popular Media Recently, I’ve been blogging about the difference between so-called “bias” in vertically integrated economic relationships and consumer harm (e.g., here and here).  The two are . . .

Recently, I’ve been blogging about the difference between so-called “bias” in vertically integrated economic relationships and consumer harm (e.g., here and here).  The two are different.  Indeed, vertical integration and contractual arrangements are generally pro-consumer and efficient.   Many of the same arguments surrounded the net neutrality debate with critics largely skeptical that the legislation was not needed (antitrust could be used when such contractual arrangements actually generated competitive harm) and would chill pro-competitive behavior.

In January, the Federal Communications Commission has now received its first complaint under the Order against MetroPCS.  So, is the complaint about a monopolist Internet Service Provider (ISP) employing vertical contracts to exclude rivals and harm consumers?  You be the judge.  My colleague Tom Hazlett describes the situation in his (always) excellent Financial Times column:

MetroPCS, hit with its first formal complaint, is an upstart wireless network offering low prices and short-term contracts. As part of their $40 a month “all you can eat” voice, text and data plan, they slipped in a bonus: free, unlimited YouTube videos, customised to run fast and clear.  Activist groups, led by Free Press, went ballistic. Their petition to the FCC declared that the mobile provider was favouring YouTube over other video sites, creating just the sort of “walled garden” that would destroy the internet. “The new service plans offered by MetroPCS give a preview of the future in a world without adequate protections for mobile broadband users,” they wrote.

The complaint performs a great public service, revealing just how net neutrality would “adequately protect mobile broadband users”. In fact, MetroPCS advances the interests of consumers by supporting enhanced access to the applications most popular with users.  Such arrangements do not sabotage internet development, but drive it.

But what about the possibility of consumer harm so prominent in the Net Neutrality Order? As Hazlett explains, not only is such a competitive threat unlikely, but the regulatory restrictions imposed by the Order will impede competition and hurt consumers (in this case, especially targeting the price sensitive customers).  Indeed, the crux of the complaint surrounds an effort by MetroPCS and Google to offer consumers additional choices.  Read on:

MetroPCS possesses no market power. With 8m customers, it is the country’s fifth largest mobile operator, less than one-tenth the size of Verizon. Under no theory could it force customers to patronise certain websites. It couldn’t extract monopoly cash if it tried to.

Indeed, low-cost prepaid plans of MetroPCS are popular with users who want to avoid long-term contracts and are price sensitive. Half its customers are ‘cord cutters’, subscribers whose only phone is wireless and usage is intense. Voice minutes per month average about 2,000, more than double that of larger carriers.
The $40 plan is cheap because it’s inexpensively delivered using 2G technology. It is not broadband (topping out, in third party reviews, at just 100 kbps), and has software and capacity issues. In general, voice over internet is not supported by the handsets and video streaming is not available on the network. The carrier deals with those limitations in three ways.

First, the $40 per month price tag extends a fat discount. Unlimited everything can cost $120 on faster networks. Second, it has also deployed new 4G technology, offering both a $40 tier similar to the 2G product (no video streaming), but also a pumped up version with video streaming, VoIP and everything else – without data caps – for $60 a month. Of course, this network has far larger capacity and is much zippier (reliable at 700 kbps).  PC World rated the full-blown 4G service “dirt cheap”.
Third, to upgrade the cheaper-than-dirt 2G experience, MetroPCS got Google – owner of YouTube – to compress their videos for delivery over the older network. This allowed the mobile carrier to extend unlimited wildly popular YouTube content to its lowest tier subscribers.  Busted! Favouring YouTube is said to violate neutrality. …

The FCC has already erred. Innovators such as MetroPCS and Google should need no
defence in supplying customers’ superior choices. Neither consumers nor the internet are “protected” by rules hostile to co-operative efforts – even if money were to pass between firms – that expand outputs and lower prices. If the FCC is to take such ill-targeted attacks on competitive rivalry seriously, it will do far more to deter the open internet than to preserve it.

Not an auspicious beginning for the Net Neutrality regime — or consumers.

Filed under: antitrust, economics, error costs, exclusionary conduct, google, net neutrality, regulation, technology Tagged: antitrust, economics, FCC, google, Hazlett, net neutrality

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

Search Bias and Antitrust

Popular Media There is an antitrust debate brewing concerning Google and “search bias,” a term used to describe search engine results that preference the content of the . . .

There is an antitrust debate brewing concerning Google and “search bias,” a term used to describe search engine results that preference the content of the search provider.  For example, Google might list Google Maps prominently if one searches “maps” or Microsoft’s Bing might prominently place Microsoft affiliated content or products.

Apparently both antitrust investigations and Congressional hearings are in the works; regulators and commentators appear poised to attempt to impose “search neutrality” through antitrust or other regulatory means to limit or prohibit the ability of search engines (or perhaps just Google) to favor their own content.  At least one proposal goes so far as to advocate a new government agency to regulate search.  Of course, when I read proposals like this, I wonder where Google’s share of the “search market” will be by the time the new agency is built.

As with the net neutrality debate, I understand some of the push for search neutrality involves an intense push to discard traditional economically-grounded antitrust framework.  The logic for this push is simple.  The economic literature on vertical restraints and vertical integration provides no support for ex ante regulation arising out of the concern that a vertically integrating firm will harm competition through favoring its own content and discriminating against rivals.  Economic theory suggests that such arrangements may be anticompetitive in some instances, but also provides a plethora of pro-competitive explanations.  Lafontaine & Slade explain the state of the evidence in their recent survey paper in the Journal of Economic Literature:

We are therefore somewhat surprised at what the weight of the evidence is telling us. It says that, under most circumstances, profit-maximizing vertical-integration decisions are efficient, not just from the firms’ but also from the consumers’ points of view. Although there are isolated studies that contradict this claim, the vast majority support it. Moreover, even in industries that are highly concentrated so that horizontal considerations assume substantial importance, the net effect of vertical integration appears to be positive in many instances. We therefore conclude that, faced with a vertical arrangement, the burden of evidence should be placed on competition authorities to demonstrate that that arrangement is harmful before the practice is attacked. Furthermore, we have found clear evidence that restrictions on vertical integration that are imposed, often by local authorities, on owners of retail networks are usually detrimental to consumers. Given the weight of the evidence, it behooves government agencies to reconsider the validity of such restrictions.

Of course, this does not bless all instances of vertical contracts or integration as pro-competitive.  The antitrust approach appropriately eschews ex ante regulation in favor of a fact-specific rule of reason analysis that requires plaintiffs to demonstrate competitive harm in a particular instance. Again, given the strength of the empirical evidence, it is no surprise that advocates of search neutrality, as net neutrality before it, either do not rely on consumer welfare arguments or are willing to sacrifice consumer welfare for other objectives.

I wish to focus on the antitrust arguments for a moment.  In an interview with the San Francisco Gate, Harvard’s Ben Edelman sketches out an antitrust claim against Google based upon search bias; and to his credit, Edelman provides some evidence in support of his claim.

I’m not convinced.  Edelman’s interpretation of evidence of search bias is detached from antitrust economics.  The evidence is all about identifying whether or not there is bias.  That, however, is not the relevant antitrust inquiry; instead, the question is whether such vertical arrangements, including preferential treatment of one’s own downstream products, are generally procompetitive or anticompetitive.  Examples from other contexts illustrate this point.

Grocery product manufacturers contract for “bias” with supermarkets through slotting contracts and other shelf space payments.  The bulk of economic theory and evidence on these contracts suggest that they are generally efficient and a normal part of the competitive process.   Vertically integrated firms may “bias” their own content in ways that increase output.  Whether bias occurs within the firm (as is the case with Google favoring its own products) or by contract (the shelf space example) should be of no concern for Edelman and those making search bias antitrust arguments.  Economists have known since Coase — and have been reminded by Klein, Alchian, Williamson and others — that firms may achieve by contract anything they could do within the boundaries of the firm.  The point is that, in the economics literature, it is well known that content self-promoting incentives in a vertical relationship can be either efficient or anticompetitive depending on the circumstances of the situation.  The empirical literature suggests that such relationships are mostly pro-competitive and that restrictions upon the abilities of firms to enter them generally reduce consumer welfare.

Edelman is an economist, and so I find it a bit odd that he has framed the “bias” debate without reference to any of this literature.  Instead, his approach appears to be that bias generates harm to rivals and that this harm is a serious antitrust problem.  (Or in other places, that the problem is that Google exhibits bias but its employees may have claimed otherwise at various points; this is also antitrust-irrelevant.)  For example, Edelman writes:

Search bias is a mechanism whereby Google can leverage its dominance in search, in order to achieve dominance in other sectors.  So for example, if Google wants to be dominant in restaurant reviews, Google can adjust search results, so whenever you search for restaurants, you get a Google reviews page, instead of a Chowhound or Yelp page. That’s good for Google, but it might not be in users’ best interests, particularly if the other services have better information, since they’ve specialized in exactly this area and have been doing it for years.

“Leveraging” one’s dominance in search, of course, takes a bit more than bias.  But I was quite curious about Edelman’s evidence and so I went and looked at Edelman and Lockwood.  Here is how they characterize their research question: “Whether search engines’ algorithmic results favor their own services, and if so, which search engines do so most, to what extent, and in what substantive areas.”  Here is how the authors describe what they did to test the hypothesis that Google engages in more search bias than other search engines:

To formalize our analysis, we formed a list of 32 search terms for services commonly provided by search engines, such as “email”, “calendar”, and “maps”. We searched for each term using the top 5 search engines: Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask, and AOL. We collected this data in August 2010.

We preserved and analyzed the first page of results from each search. Most results came from sources independent of search engines, such as blogs, private web sites, and Wikipedia. However, a significant fraction – 19% – came from pages that were obviously affiliated with one of the five search engines. (For example, we classified results from youtube.com and gmail.com as Google, while Microsoft results included msn.com, hotmail.com, live.com, and Bing.)

Here is the underlying data for all 32 terms; so far, so good.  A small pilot study examining whether and to what extent search engines favor their own content is an interesting project — though, again, I’m not sure it says anything about the antitrust issues.  No surprise: they find some evidence that search engines exhibit some bias in favor of affiliated sites.  You can see all of the evidence at Edelman’s site (again, to his credit).  Interpretations of these results vary dramatically.  Edelman sees a serious problem.  Danny Sullivan begs to differ (“Google only favors itself 19 percent of the time”), and also makes the important point that the study took place before Yahoo searches were powered by Bing.

In their study, Edelman and Lockwood appear at least somewhat aware that bias and vertical integration can be efficient although they do not frame it in those terms.  They concede, for example, that “in principle, a search engine might feature its own services because its users prefer these links.”  To distinguish between these two possibilities, they conceive of the following test:

To test the user preference and bias hypotheses, we use data from two different sources on click-through-rate (CTR) for searches at Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Using CTR data from comScore and another service that (with users’ permission) tracks users’ searches and clicks (a service which prefers not to be listed by name), we analyze the frequency with which users click on search results for selected terms. The data span a four-week period, centered around the time of our automated searches.  In click-through data, the most striking pattern is that the first few search results receive the vast majority of users’ clicks. Across all search engines and search terms, the first result received, on average, 72% of users’ clicks, while the second and third results received 13% and 8% of clicks, respectively.

So far, no surprises.  The first listing generates greater incremental click-through than the second or third listing.  Similarly, the eye-level shelf space generates more sales than less prominent shelf space.  The authors have a difficult time distinguishing user preference from bias:

This concentration of users’ clicks makes it difficult to disprove the user preference hypothesis. For example, as shown in Table 1, Google and Yahoo each list their own maps service as the first result for the query “maps”. Our CTR data indicates that Google Maps receives 86% of user clicks when the search is performed on Google, and Yahoo Maps receives 72% of clicks when the search is performed on Yahoo. One might think that this concentration is evidence of users’ preference for the service affiliated with their search engine. On the other hand, since clicks are usually highly concentrated on the first result, it is possible that users have no such preference, and that they are simply clicking on the first result because it appears first. Moreover, since the advantage conferred by a result’s rank likely differs across different search queries, we do not believe it is appropriate to try to control for ranking in a regression.

The interesting question from a consumer welfare perspective is not what happens to the users without a strong preference for Google Maps or Yahoo Maps.  Users without a strong preference are likely to click-through on whatever service is offered on their search engine of choice.  There is no significant welfare loss from a consumer who is indifferent between Google Maps and Yahoo Maps from choosing one over the other.

The more interesting question is whether users with a strong preference for a non-Google product are foreclosed from access to consumers by search bias.  When Google ranks its Maps above others, but a user with a strong preference for Yahoo Maps finds it listed second, is the user able to find his product of choice?  Probably if it is listed second.  Probably not if it is delisted or something more severe.  Edelman reports some data on this issues:

Nevertheless, there is one CTR pattern that would be highly suggestive of bias. Suppose we see a case in which a search engine ranks its affiliated result highly, yet that result receives fewer clicks than lower results. This would suggest that users strongly prefer the lower result — enough to overcome the effect of the affiliated result’s higher ranking.

Of course this is consistent with bias; however, to repeat the critical point, this bias does not inexorably lead to — or even suggest — an antitrust problem.  Let’s recall the shelf space analogy.  Consider a supermarket where Pepsi is able to gain access to the premium eye-level shelf space but consumers have a strong preference for Coke.  Whether or not the promotional efforts of Pepsi will have an impact on competition depend on whether Coke is able to get access to consumers.  In that case, it may involve reaching down to the second or third shelf.  There might be some incremental search costs involved.  And even if one could show that Coke sales declined dramatically in response to Pepsi’s successful execution of its contractual shelf-space bias strategy, that merely shows harm to rivals rather than harm to competition.  If Coke-loving consumers can access their desired product, Coke isn’t harmed, and there is certainly no competitive risk.

So what do we make of evidence that in the face of search engine bias, click-through data suggest consumers will still pick lower listings?  One inference is that consumers with strong preferences for content other than the biased result nonetheless access their preferred content.  It is difficult to see a competitive problem arising in such an environment.  Edelman anticipates this point somewhat when observes during his interview:

The thing about the effect I’ve just described is you don’t see it very often. Usually the No. 1 link gets twice as many clicks as the second result. So the bias takes some of the clicks that should have gone to the right result. It seems most users are influenced by the positioning.

This fails to justify Edelman’s position.  First off, in a limited sample of terms, its unclear what it means for these reversals not to happen “very often.”  More importantly, so what that the top link gets twice as many clicks as the second link?  The cases where the second link gets the dominant share of clicks-through might well be those where users have a strong preference for the second listed site.  Even if they are not, the antitrust question is whether search bias is efficient or poses a competitive threat.  Most users might be influenced by the positioning because they lack a strong preference or even any preference at all.  That search engines compete for the attention of those consumers, including through search bias, should not be surprising.  But it does not make out a coherent claim of consumer harm.

The ‘compared to what’ question looms large here.  One cannot begin to conceive of answering the search bias problem — if it is a problem at all — from a consumer welfare perspective until they pin down the appropriate counterfactual.  Edelman appears to assume  — when he observes that “bias takes some of the clicks that should have gone to the right result” — that the benchmark “right result” is that which would prevail if listings were correlated perfectly with aggregate consumer preference.   My point here is simple: that comparison is not the one that is relevant to antitrust.  An antitrust inquiry would distinguish harm to competitors from harm to competition; it would focus its inquiry on whether bias impaired the competitive process by foreclosing rivals from access to consumers and not merely whether various listings would be improved but for Google’s bias.  The answer to that question is clearly yes.  The relevant question, however, is whether that bias is efficient.   Evidence that other search engines with much smaller market shares, and certainly without any market power, exhibit similar bias would suggest to most economists that the practice certainly has some efficiency justifications.  Edelman ignores that possibility and by doing so, ignores decades of economic theory and empirical evidence.  This is a serious error, as the overwhelming lesson of that literature is that restrictions on vertical contracting and integration are a serious threat to consumer welfare.

I do not know what answer the appropriate empirical analysis would reveal.  As Geoff and I argue in this paper, however, I suspect a monopolization case against Google on these grounds would face substantial obstacles.  A deeper understanding of the competitive effects of search engine bias is a worthy project.  Edelman should also be applauded for providing some data that is interesting fodder for discussion.  But my sense of the economic arguments and existing data are that they do not provide the support for an antitrust attack against search bias against Google specifically, nor the basis for a consumer-welfare grounded search neutrality regime.

Filed under: advertising, antitrust, armen alchian, business, economics, exclusionary conduct, google, monopolization, net neutrality, technology

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

DOJ to Waxman: Violating Net Neutrality Isn’t Anticompetitive

Popular Media Congressman Waxman shares that the news that the DOJ Antitrust Division told him that cable or phone companies violating net neutrality principles with exclusive or . . .

Congressman Waxman shares that the news that the DOJ Antitrust Division told him that cable or phone companies violating net neutrality principles with exclusive or discriminatory deals are not violating the antitrust laws:

Waxman said during a net neutrality hearing Wednesday that Justice officials informed his office that existing competition laws cannot be used to prevent cable and phone companies from blocking Web traffic.

“DoJ told us that … antitrust does not stop a phone or cable company from blocking websites that don’t pay for access,” said Waxman, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

“According to DoJ, favoring websites that pay high fees and degrading websites that don’t is perfectly legal under the antitrust laws as long as the phone or cable company isn’t in direct competition with the websites being degraded.”

Of course, if a monopolist engages in activity that amounted to exclusionary conduct and threatened consumer welfare, it certainly would be within the domain of antitrust enforcement.  Thus,  this sounds more like the DOJ asserting that business conduct violating net neutrality principles isn’t an antitrust problem because there is no harm to competition.   In other words, the DOJ is free to enforce the antitrust laws against the anticompetitive behavior, i.e. conduct characterized by the exercise, maintenance or acquisition of monopoly power to the detriment of consumers; what they cannot do is enforce those laws against behavior that is not anticompetitive.

I’m quite sure that is not the message Waxman intended to send.

Proponents of net neutrality are certainly free to (and in fact do) argue that net neutrality is justified on other (non-consumer welfare) grounds or even at the cost of reducing consumer welfare.   But many net neutrality arguments are framed in terms of precisely the types of competitive harms that would be actionable under the antitrust laws if there were proof.    It strikes me that the minimal discipline imposed by antitrust  in requiring some proof that consumers might be harmed would provide at least some safeguard against regulation might impose substantial welfare losses for consumers.

Filed under: antitrust, net neutrality, technology

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

Tim Wu to the FTC: What does it mean?

Popular Media As you may have heard, Columbia lawprof and holder of the dubious distinction of having originated the term and concept of Net Neutrality, Tim Wu, . . .

As you may have heard, Columbia lawprof and holder of the dubious distinction of having originated the term and concept of Net Neutrality, Tim Wu, is headed to the FTC as a senior advisor.

Curiously, his guest stint runs for only about four and a half months.  As the WSJ reports:

Mr. Wu, 38, will start his new position on Feb. 14 in the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning, and will help the agency to develop policies that affect the Internet and the market for mobile communications and services. The FTC said Mr. Wu will work in the unit until July 31. Mr. Wu, who is taking a leave from Columbia, said that to work after that date he would have to request a further leave from the university.

Mr. Wu’s claim that the source of the date constraint is Columbia doesn’t pass the smell test.  Now, it is possible that what he says is literally true–and therefore intentionally misleading.  Perhaps he asked only for leave through the end of July and would indeed have to request further leave if he wanted it.  But the implication that Columbia would have trouble granting further leave–especially during the summer!–and thus the short tenure seems very fishy to me.

So what else could be going on, while we’re reading inscrutable tea leaves?  Well, for one thing, it could be that Wu has already signed on for some not-yet-public role at Columbia that he prefers not to imperil.  Maybe associate dean or something like that.

But I have another, completely unsupported speculation.  I think the author of The Master Switch (commented on by Josh and me here) and one of the most capable (as far as that goes) proponents of Internet regulation in the land is being brought in to the FTC to help the agency gin up a case against Google.

I think with Google-ITA seemingly approaching its denouement, the FTC knows or believes that Google is either planning to abandon the merger or else enter into an (insufficiently-restrictive for the FTC) settlement with the DOJ.  In either case, not a full-blown investigation and intervention into Google’s business.  So the FTC is preparing its own Section 5 (and Section 2, but who needs that piker when you have the real deal in Section 5?) (for previous TOTM takes on Section 5, see, e.g., here and here) case and has brought in Wu to help.  Given the switching back and forth between the DOJ and FTC in reviewing Google mergers, it could very well be (I haven’t kept close tabs on Google’s proposed acquisitions) that there’s even already another merger review in waiting at the FTC on which the agency is planning to build its case.

But the phase of the case requiring Wu’s full attention–the conceptual early phase–should be completed by the end of July, so no need to detain him further.

More concretely, I would point out that it says a lot about the agency’s mindset that it is bringing in the likes of Wu to help it with its ongoing forays into the regulation of Internet businesses.  By comparison, I would just point out that Chairman Majoras’ FTC brought in our own Josh Wright as the agency’s first Scholar in Residence.  Sends a very different signal, don’t you think?

Filed under: antitrust, federal trade commission, google, technology Tagged: Federal Trade Commission, google, Tim Wu

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

Hazlett on Net Neutrality and Antitrust

TOTM My colleague Tom Hazlett has an interesting piece in the Financial Times chiming in on the network neutrality debate.  Hazlett makes the point that if . . .

My colleague Tom Hazlett has an interesting piece in the Financial Times chiming in on the network neutrality debate.  Hazlett makes the point that if “competitive harm” is the concern, isn’t antitrust the answer rather than regulation of this sort?

Read the full piece here.

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection

The Demise of Property Rights Has Been Greatly Exaggerated …

TOTM My colleague Tom Hazlett (George Mason University) has a characteristically thoughtful and provocative column in the Financial Times on the recent Clearwire joint venture and . . .

My colleague Tom Hazlett (George Mason University) has a characteristically thoughtful and provocative column in the Financial Times on the recent Clearwire joint venture and what it tells us about the “innovation commons” and current public policy debates such as network neutrality, spectrum property rights, and municipal wi-fi. Here’s an excerpt…

Read the full piece here

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Intellectual Property & Licensing

Google, Net Neutrality, and Antitrust

TOTM Hanno Kaiser at Antitrust Review discusses the implications of Google’s acquisition of YouTube for the net neutrality debate. Hanno opines that the deal may increase . . .

Hanno Kaiser at Antitrust Review discusses the implications of Google’s acquisition of YouTube for the net neutrality debate. Hanno opines that the deal may increase the likelihood of a neutrality result even without legislation. While Google’s public pro-neutrality stance is well known, GMU’s Tom Hazlett (my office neighbor and fellow UCLA Economics alum) has a great column in the Financial Times highlighting the difference between Google’s “public policy” stance on net neutrality and its business model. Here’s Hazlett on Google’s now well-known position on net neutrality legislation…

Read the full piece here

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Antitrust & Consumer Protection