November 12, 2014

Net Neutrality – What’s In A Name?

By Robert Schwartz

Although President Obama has endorsed a specific approach to “net neutrality” – the principle that Internet service providers should treat all data on the Internet equally – the debate over whether and how the Federal Communications Commission should enforce that principle is still raging, and may well be decided by whoever wins the battle over defining “Internet access.”

In politics, a basic rule is never to let the opposition define you.  So it is in public policy and regulation as well.  The term “broadband,” for example, makes sense only when compared to the old dial-up world based on thin copper telephone wires, where speeds are measured in K’s, not M’s or G’s.  Compared to the bandwidth devoted to multichannel home video by cable, satellite (“DBS”) or telco distributors, the bandwidth that these distributors make available to the Internet is puny indeed – a mere handful of channels out of the hundreds that they control.  Internet access is like a key mountain pass – whoever controls this turf is likely to emerge victorious.

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Categories: Antitrust Policy

    October 30, 2014

    European Commission Hits Telecoms With Fines Of 70 Million Euros For Abusing Slovak Broadband Market

    A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

    By Yulia Tosheva and James Ashe-Taylor

    The European Commission has signalled that it is not dialing down its scrutiny of the telecommunications sector by imposing fines totalling 70 million euros on Slovak Telekom and its parent company, Deutsche Telekom.

    On October 15, 2014, the Commission imposed a fine of 38,838,000 euros on Slovak Telekom and Deutsche Telekom for pursuing an abusive strategy designed to exclude competitors from the Slovak market for broadband services for more than five years. Deutsche Telekom was held to be jointly and severally liable for the amount of the fine as it had exercised decisive influence over Slovak Telekom during the period of the infringements.

    Deutsche Telekom also received an additional fine of 31,070,000 euros for its recidivist behaviour, based on its record of having been fined by the Commission in 2003 for a margin squeeze in the German broadband market.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

      October 29, 2014

      European Commission Settles Two Swiss Franc-Related Derivatives Investigations

      A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

      By Ana Rojo Prada and James Ashe-Taylor

      The European Commission has settled two cartel investigations and sanctioned four major banks in the Swiss Franc-related derivatives market, imposing total fines of approximately 94 million euros, for violations of European Union antitrust rules.

      Interest rate derivatives (including swaps, futures and options) are financial products used by banks or companies as insurance mechanisms to manage the risk of interest rate fluctuations.

      The first cartel investigation settlement involved collusive behaviour between the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and JPMorgan between March 2008 and July 2009.  The cartel sought to influence the Swiss Franc Libor benchmark interest rate as a means of distorting the pricing of the derivatives indexed on it.  The cartel engaged in discussions concerning one of the bank’s future Swiss Franc Libor rate submissions and exchanged information on trading positions and intended prices.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

        October 17, 2014

        Brussels Antitrust Seminar Demonstrates Shifting European Landscape For Competition Enforcement In Wake Of ECJ MasterCard Judgment

        A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

        By Irene Fraile and Richard Pike

        The recent judgment by the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) in the MasterCard case is sparking a lively debate about how antitrust enforcement of payment system regimes should evolve in the European Union, as evidenced by an antitrust seminar co-sponsored by Constantine Cannon in Brussels on Monday.

        The ECJ’s MasterCard judgment was rendered on September 11, 2014, when it dismissed MasterCard’s final appeal against an antitrust infringement decision adopted by the European Commission in 2007 regarding MasterCard’s Multilateral Interchange Fees (“MIFs”) for cross-border payment card transactions. MIFs are the fees paid by merchants’ banks to card-issuing banks to cover the cost of processing card payments. The ECJ held that the level of those fees had “restrictive effects on competition.”

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          October 1, 2014

          Apple’s Appellate Challenge Of E-Books Monitor Moves To Procedural Battlefield

          By Allison F. Sheedy

          Apple’s battle in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit against a court-appointed external antitrust compliance monitor is winding its way through a procedural thicket as the Second Circuit prepares to consider the merits of Apple’s appeal.

          Apple is appealing an order by Judge Denise Cote of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York refusing to disqualify the monitor the court appointed to oversee Apple’s antitrust compliance policies, after finding in a bench trial that U.S. Department of Justice and Attorneys General of various states had proved that Apple violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act and related state antitrust laws by conspiring with the publishers to raise e-book prices.

          Apple’s disputes with the monitor, Michael Bromwich, began almost as soon as he was appointed by the Judge Cote last fall. Apple complained from the start that he overstepped his mandated responsibilities, and charged exorbitant fees, with no oversight, which Apple is solely responsible for paying. Apple also argued that Bromwich lacked impartiality because of ex parte communications he engaged in with both Judge Cote and the government plaintiffs.

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          Categories: Antitrust Litigation

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