European Commission antitrust probe clears ISPs

The European Commission has announced that an investigation into content delivery antitrust has failed to find evidence of wrong-doing by internet service providers. Inspections were carried out after concerns were raised about the potential abuse of dominant market positions and violation of EU antitrust regulations.

In July, the EC stated that unannounced inspections would be a preliminary step into determining suspected anticompetitive practices. The investigation focused on telcos that manage and deliver internet access to end-users. The concerns raised were that, as traffic becomes congested nearer the consumer premises, proprietary services from the telco were taking precedence over content being delivered by OTT players, such as Netflix, which rely heavily on high quality of service.

In an announcement made by the Commission today, it stated: “the Commission found no evidence of behaviour aimed at foreclosing transit services from the market or at providing an unfair advantage to the telecoms operators’ own proprietary content services”.

July’s memo detailing the launch of the investigation stated company names would not be made public at such an early stage. The investigation has since been concluded, and when contacted by this morning, the Commission declined to confirm which specific telcos, or even territories, were investigated. The lack of ROI from its three-month investigation may have contributed to the EC’s new-found discretion.

In a somewhat related matter, the Commission has also finally confirmed that Facebook’s acquisition of messaging service Whatsapp isn’t anticompetitive after all. Early concerns were that the acquisition would see an unfair acquisition of competition by the social networking giant, and lead to insufficient competition in OTT comms.

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After further deliberation, the Commission found that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are not close competitors and that consumers would continue to have a wide choice of alternative consumer communications apps after the transaction, in an official statement.

“While Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are two of the most popular apps, most people use more than one communications app,” said Joaquín Almunia, Commission Vice President responsible for competition policy. “We have carefully reviewed this proposed acquisition and come to the conclusion that it would not hamper competition in this dynamic and growing market. Consumers will continue to have a wide choice of consumer communications apps.”

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