Last week the European Parliament voted on and passed a resolution urging anti-trust regulators to “unbundle search engines from other commercial services”. While the resolution itself does not mention any specific company and is not related to any specific legal action, it follows four years of European officials investigating Google for reasons of anti-trust concerns and further illustrates the European stance on net neutrality.
The resolution’s purpose is to make sure that search engines cannot unfairly favour their own sites and services in search results. One passage sums this up, stating: "All internet traffic should be treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference, irrespective of its sender, receiver, type, content, device, service or application." The European Parliament believes that search engines are such an integral part of everyone’s internet usage that allowing them to favour their own sites and services would be very damaging for competition in any markets they operate in.
The European Parliament doesn’t have the authority to act on the resolution, but they have asked the European Commission and the EU member states to act on it. While it is unlikely that they will force the breakup of Google, any changes in legislation in relation to this area would have a profound effect on search engines’ operations within Europe and could see a move away from large multi-national organisations leveraging their positions to move into new markets and open up new revenue streams.
The resolution shows Europe’s increasing involvement in the internet and ensuring that it remain a fair and open marketplace. While this is commendable, asking Google to ‘unbundle’ its search engine may set a precedent that will be hard to live up to. For instance, to what degree does any form of bundled service harm competition and when would the European Parliament step in to ‘restore parity’? More and more telecoms companies are looking at bringing consumers broadband, fixed line telephone services, mobile and TV in one offering. In my view these companies are leveraging their positions to gain an advantage in other markets even more than search engines. Are they next for regulation?
Ultimately I understand WHY the European Parliament is concerned about the size and reach of companies like Google and the effect they might have on the neutrality of the internet. I’m just not sure that unbundling is the most effective way of managing the situation.
Source: Vine 14