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Google takes on European Commission’s antitrust decision


With help from Mark Scott, Cristiano Lima, John Hendel and Leah Nylen

Editor’s Note: This edition of Morning Tech is published weekdays at 10 a.m. POLITICO Pro Technology subscribers hold exclusive early access to the newsletter each morning at 6 a.m. Learn more about POLITICO Pro’s comprehensive policy intelligence coverage, policy tools and services, at politicopro.com.

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— Google in Luxembourg: The search giant goes before one of Europe’s highest courts today to appeal a European Commission antitrust decision that hit the company with a multibillion-dollar fine for favoring its own search services over those of rivals.

— FCC filing: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and other tech heavyweights, at odds with wireless carriers, are pushing the FCC to save prime mid-band spectrum for unlicensed uses like Wi-Fi.

— Jordan says: In his first known remarks about House Judiciary’s work on tech market power, the panel’s soon-to-be top Republican, Rep. Jim Jordan, raised concerns about Democrats’ antitrust rhetoric.

GREETINGS, TECHLINGS: IT’S WEDNESDAY. WELCOME TO MORNING TECH! I’m your host, Alexandra Levine. Tech entrepreneur turned tech critic Andrew Yang dropped out of the race for the White House last night in New Hampshire. Here’s a question: Will the #YangGang endure on Twitter?

Got a news tip? Write Alex at alevine@politico.com or @Ali_Lev. An event for our calendar? Send details to techcalendar@politicopro.com. Anything else? Full team info below. And don’t forget: add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.

ACROSS THE POND: GOOGLE’S DAY IN COURT — The search giant heads to Luxembourg this morning to appeal a European Commission antitrust decision from 2017 that fined the tech giant €2.4 billion for favoring some of its search services over those of rivals. The penalty was a watershed for Margrethe Vestager, the region’s competition chief, and led to subsequent fines that, in total, left Google to pay more than €8 billion — all of which the company is appealing. Follow along with POLITICO Europe’s competition reporter, Simon Van Dorpe, for updates.

— What to expect: A lot of this will focus on (wonky) procedure. The Commission reached a tentative agreement with Google over the search cases back in 2014, only to pull back once Vestager took over DGComp. Part of the company’s appeal will focus on what new evidence, if any, Brussels secured between 2014 and 2016 that caused it to change its mind and levy the billion-euro fine. How the Commission handles that will be crucial to the case. More details here from POLITICO Europe’s chief technology correspondent, Mark Scott.

TODAY ON CAPITOL HILL — House lawmakers are delving into a smattering of tech policy issues ranging from data privacy to the role of artificial intelligence in national security and financial services.

— It kicks off with a House Intel hearing this morning on hurdles to the U.S. using machine learning to strengthen national security, featuring testimony from a former U.S. deputy chief technology officer and former U.S. chief data scientist with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

— Also this morning: a House Veterans’ Affairs hearing on the security and privacy of veterans’ health records and other sensitive data (witnesses include officials leading the VA’s Office of Information Security and Office of Information and Technology).

— The House Financial Services Task Force on AI will then unpack algorithmic bias in that sector this afternoon.

FIRST IN MT: TECH, CABLE GIANTS RALLY FOR WI-FI — A wide mix of corporate heavyweights including Amazon, Apple, Charter, Comcast, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are telling the FCC to save its whole effort in the 6 GHz swath of airwaves for unlicensed uses like Wi-Fi, pushing back against a wireless carrier attempt to get the FCC to carve up the band and auction off a portion of the prime mid-band spectrum for licensed use.

— “Licensing a portion of this band would undermine, not support, our next-generation wireless future,” the companies argued in their latest letter.

JORDAN SKEPTICAL OF DEMS’ ANTITRUST TALK — The House Judiciary Committee’s incoming top Republican said Tuesday he is alarmed by some of the rhetoric on tech and antitrust he’s heard from Democratic officials like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who is leading the panel’s investigation on the matter. (Warren has famously called for the tech giants to be broken up, and Cicilline has called for much more stringent enforcement of federal antitrust standards.)

— “I’m a little concerned by some of the things I’ve heard from Sen. Warren and [Congressman] Cicilline that caused me some concern, but I haven’t seen any type of legislation yet so I can’t really evaluate,” Jordan, who is set to take over the role of ranking member on Judiciary, told Cristiano on Tuesday, his first known remarks on the committee’s tech and antitrust work. “We’ll pay attention to what they’re doing,” he said of the probe.

— Cicilline said last week that he doesn’t expect the shifting GOP leadership on the committee to affect their work on tech and antitrust.

WHAT TO MAKE OF MCCONNELL ON TECH AND ANTITRUST — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) surprised industry watchers last month by co-sponsoring a bill to allow publishers to collectively negotiate content distribution terms with big tech platforms, in legislation that could offer a financial lifeline to ailing newspapers. But the measure’s lead Senate sponsor says he can’t make heads or tails of the move.

— “I can’t tell how serious Mitch is,” Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.), who introduced the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, S. 1700 (116), told Cristiano on Tuesday. “I honestly can’t tell whether he’s just putting his name on it or he’s serious about helping us move it.”

— What may lie ahead: The measure, which would grant publishers a temporary safe harbor to band together in negotiations, has yet to be picked up for a markup on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it was referred. Asked about the bill’s status, a committee spokesman told us last month that Chairman Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) “focus has been on getting judges passed through committee.”

— A McConnell spokesman declined to comment on plans for the bill.

STARTUPS AND ANTITRUST The Justice Department teams up with Stanford Law School today for a workshop focused on venture capital and antitrust.

— Sequoia Capital’s Michael Moritz — one of Silicon Valley’s top venture capitalists who made a name for himself with investments in PayPal, Zappos and Google — will kick off the daylong seminar. Roger McNamee of Elevation Partners — best known for its early investment in Facebook — and Ram Shriram, an early investor in Google who now runs Sherpalo Ventures, will talk about “kill zones” around tech giants, markets where investing in new startups isn’t worthwhile. Later panels will focus on monetizing data and investing in platform-dominated markets.

Jessica Rich, former director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, is joining Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy as a distinguished fellow. … The American Economic Liberties Project has officially launched; the team includes Sarah Miller, a former deputy director of the Open Markets Institute “who wants to break up big everything,” and Matt Stoller, author of “Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy.”. … Titus Cornell has joined CTIA’s public affairs department. … Jeff Bronikowski, formerly of Warner Music Group, has joined Apple as global head of strategic music initiatives.

The Computing Technology Industry Association named Reps. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) as its 2020 Tech Champions for “[working] tirelessly to advance U.S. innovation and champion policies that allow technology to move our country and its citizens forward,” said CompTIA’s executive vice president for public advocacy, Cinnamon Rogers. … Young Professionals in Foreign Policy’s D.C. chapter is accepting applications for its National Security Threats Program focused on election security and social media intelligence analysis; apply here through Feb. 14.

How the courts could thwart a Silicon Valley crackdown: The FTC’s new inquiry demanding info from tech giants on their past mergers “raised the hopes of antitrust advocates — while a federal judge in New York quashed them,” POLITICO reports.

Who’s zoomin’ who?: “U.S. Officials Say Huawei Can Covertly Access Telecom Networks,” WSJ reports. But also, via WaPo: “How the CIA was able to read the encrypted messages of allies and adversaries for decades.”

IPO woes: Airbnb’s plans to go public “during 2020” could be affected by the coronavirus, WSJ reports.

Next up: “Meet the Huawei of airport security,” via POLITICO Europe.

Double take: Via Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason: President Donald Trump “notes in the Oval Office proudly that Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple — companies that have the highest values in the stock market — spell, with their first letters, a familiar acronym: MAGA.”

Opinion: “In the year since Amazon nixed its HQ2 plans for Queens … New York has weathered a big break-up, taken positive steps forward, and proven more resilient than any of the naysayers thought,” Julie Samuels, founder of Tech:NYC, writes in Crain’s.

Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King (bking@politico.com, @bkingdc), Mike Farrell (mfarrell@politico.com, @mikebfarrell), Nancy Scola (nscola@politico.com, @nancyscola), Steven Overly (soverly@politico.com, @stevenoverly), John Hendel (jhendel@politico.com, @JohnHendel), Cristiano Lima (clima@politico.com, @viaCristiano), Alexandra S. Levine (alevine@politico.com, @Ali_Lev), and Leah Nylen (lnylen@politico.com, @leah_nylen).

TTYL.



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