miércoles, 26 de julio de 2017

Google case

The biggest fine in competition ruling history. That's the notice that Google received a couple of weeks ago. 2,4 € bn for having given its price-comparison shopping service preferential treatment in its search results over rival offerings. But there are doubts about the solidness of the rationale of the fine.

The Commission said that the company systematically manipulated its results page to promote its own Google Shopping service and push smaller rivals down its search rankings. Even it provided some figures of the outcome of Google´s strategy, It is said that "since the beginning of each abuse, Google’s comparison shopping service has increased its traffic 45-fold in the United Kingdom, 35-fold in Germany, 19-fold in France, 29-fold in the Netherlands, 17-fold in Spain and 14-fold in Italy,” 

Some eyebrows have been raised after the fine has been imposed. There is a misunderstanding how Google could be fined for e-commerce activities without a dominant position in the electronic shopping sector. But this is a misunderstanding of the Google Shopping business. Google Shopping is nothing more (and nothing less) that an kind of advertisement service, the so called Product Listing Adds. So the fine is for taking advantage of its position in the web ads market and taking the information obtained from other services (search, mail, ...) to create and advertisament formula that its rivals can not match.

But also this argument has a flaw. As the economist said, the EC has failed to prove that there is a correlation between its behaviour and the poor performance of competing comparison-shopping services after 2008. It is difficult to estabish if Google Shopping has beat its commpetitor for its own merit or due to the tight integration of Google Shoping with the rest of Google´s service. 

So apart from establishing clearly that Google has a dominant position in the search market and this may help its dominance in other markets, few new things has came with the sentence. It is no surprise that in order to discover new facts for future investigations the EC has opened a call for monitoring Google´s algorithm.

miércoles, 12 de julio de 2017

EU Gigabit Society: Upgrading policy tools

Last september, the European Commission proposed a full renewal of the Union connectivity goals. Under the umbrella of the Gigabit Society the new targets included that all European households, rural or urban, should have access to connectivity offering a download speed of at least 100 Mbps by 2025. This means a significant upgrade regarding the target set in the Digital Agenda for Europe, which established that by 2020 internet speeds of 30 Mbps or above should be availaible for all European citizens.

For the purpose of achieving the connectivity goals of the Gigabit Society, the European Commission started the review of the European telecommunications legal framework. The proposed European Electronic Communications Code is supposed to include the adequate legal measures to boost the investments needed for this objective. But beyond the legal framework, other policy instrument should be deployed.

To begin with, the European Commission estimates  that €500 billion investment over the coming decade is needed in order to achieve ultra high speed broadband connectivity. This means that some kind of public intervention will be needed. Using again the European Commission figures, the needed public investment is likely to be a €155 billion.However, the EU Guidelines for the application of state aid rules in relation to the rapid deployment of broadband networks are still waiting a renewal. 30 Mbs is still the speed reference for the definition of which areas state could intervene without distorting compentence.

But there are other policy instruments where the connectivity speed goal taken as a reference should be renewed. It is also obvious that we need to renew the indicators used to follow the European progress on digitalisation. Nenvertheless, the connectivity dimension of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) still does not include the measurement of the availaibility and usage of 100 mbs connection.

So for achieving the Gigabit Society not only setting targets and creating a new legal is needed. Other policy instruments should be in place, and right now it looks that the European Union are still not thinking on it.

miércoles, 5 de julio de 2017

Bundling measures to fight digital poverty

As the digitalisation advances it is more difficult to find any activity which is not linked with ICTs in some manner. Both our leisure and job, our personal and professional life are invaded with technology, sometime in subtle ways other in obvious ones. Probably, if you are living this invasion with few disphoria is because you are digitally literate and not in risk of beign trapped by digital poverty.

Digital poverty is the inability to use IT, either due to the lack of access or due to the lack of skills. There are countries that are colectivelly sunk in digital poverty, but the concious of suffering it is bigger in advanced countries. Furthermore, the increase of your digital poverty degree increase your exclusion as digitalisation is progressing around you. For instance, moving public services online may have as a consequence that you will receve less public services you badly need, and therefore you will be more excluded.

Obviously, the first step of policy makers to fight digital poverty is creating the conditions for the development of an affordable internet access and providing with digital skills to the whole population. But taking advantage of digital opportunities sometimes required an extra investment, and this is happening more and more frecquently. This is the reason to promote by public authorities programs like the Amazon Prime discounts for people on government asistance. What is the value of an internet connection if you are not able to pay the services on top of it?

So bundling maybe also has a place in public policies. Perhaps in the fight against digital exclusion we should start to think in bundling different kind of services depending on the degree of digital exclusion of the target. And for this purpose we will also need some new kind of public-private partnerships, but that is another story.
palyginti kainas