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U.S. Justice Dept. files landmark antitrust case against Google – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Michael Balsamo And Marcy Gordon, The Associated Press


Published Tuesday, October 20, 2020 11:20PM EDT

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department on Tuesday sued Google for abusing its dominance in online search and advertising – the government’s most significant attempt to protect competition since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago.

And it could just be an opening salvo. Other major tech companies including Apple, Amazon and Facebook are under investigation at both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.

Google is the gateway to the internet and a search advertising behemoth,” U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen told reporters. “It has maintained its monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition.”

Lawmakers and consumer advocates have long accused Google of abusing its dominance in online search and advertising. The case filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., alleges that Google uses billions of dollars collected from advertisers to pay phone manufacturers to ensure Google is the default search engine on browsers. That stifles competition and innovation from smaller upstart rivals to Google and harms consumers by reducing the quality of search and limiting privacy protections and alternative search options, the government alleges.

Critics contend that multibillion-dollar fines and mandated changes in Google‘s practices imposed by European regulators in recent years weren’t severe enough and Google needs to be broken up to change its conduct. The Justice Department didn’t lay out specific remedies along those lines, although it asked the court to order structural relief “as needed to remedy any anticompetitive harm.”

That opens the door to possible fundamental changes such as a spinoff of the company’s Chrome browser.

Google vowed to defend itself and responded immediately via tweet: “Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”

Eleven states, all with Republican attorneys general, joined the federal government in the lawsuit. But several other states demurred.

The attorneys general of New York, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah released a statement Monday saying they have not concluded their investigation into Google and would want to consolidate their case with the DOJ’s if they decided to file. “It’s a bipartisan statement,” said spokesman Fabien Levy of the New York State attorney general’s office. “There’s things that still need to be fleshed out, basically”

President Donald Trump’s administration has long had Google in its sights. One of Trump’s top economic advisers said two years ago that the White House was considering whether Google searches should be subject to government regulation. Trump has often criticized Google, recycling unfounded claims by conservatives that the search giant is biased against conservatives and suppresses their viewpoints.

Rosen told reporters that allegations of anti-conservative bias are “a totally separate set of concerns” from the issue of competition.

Sally Hubbard, an antitrust expert who runs enforcement strategy at the Open Markets Institute, said it was a welcome surprise to see the Justice Department’s openness to the possibility of structurally breaking up Google, and not just imposing conditions on its behaviour as has happened in Europe.

“Traditionally, Republicans are hesitant to speak of breakups,” she said. “Personally, I’ll be very disappointed if I see a settlement. Google has shown it won’t adhere to any behavioural conditions.”

The argument for reining in Google has gathered force as the company stretched far beyond its 1998 roots as a search engine governed by the motto “Don’t Be Evil.” It’s since grown into a diversified goliath with online tentacles that scoop up personal data from billions of people via services ranging from search, video and maps to smartphone software. That data helps feed the advertising machine that has turned Google into a behemoth.

The company owns the leading web browser in Chrome, the world’s largest smartphone operating system in Android, the top video site in YouTube and the most popular digital mapping system. Some critics have singled out YouTube and Android as among Google businesses that should be considered for divestiture.

Google, whose corporate parent Alphabet Inc. has a market value just over $1 trillion, controls about 90% of global web searches. Barring a settlement, a trial would likely begin late next year or in 2022.

The company, based in Mountain View, California, argues that although its businesses are large, they are useful and beneficial to consumers. It maintains that its services face ample competition and have unleashed innovations that help people manage their lives.

Most of Google‘s services are offered for free in exchange for personal information that helps it sell its ads.

In a Tuesday presentation with a handful of reporters, Google argued that its services have helped hold down the prices of smartphones and that consumers can easily switch away from services like Google Search even if it’s the default option on smartphones and in some internet browsers.

A recent report from a House Judiciary subcommittee concluded that Google has monopoly power in the market for search. It said the company established its position in several markets through acquisition, snapping up successful technologies that other businesses had developed – buying an estimated 260 companies in 20 years.

The Democratic congressman who led that investigation called Tuesday’s action “long overdue.”

“It is critical that the Justice Department’s lawsuit focuses on Google‘s monopolization of search and search advertising, while also targeting the anticompetitive business practices Google is using to leverage this monopoly into other areas, such as maps, browsers, video, and voice assistants,” Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island said in a statement.

Columbia Law professor Tim Wu called the suit almost a carbon copy of the government’s 1998 lawsuit against Microsoft. He said via email that the U.S. government has a decent chance of winning. “However, the likely remedies – i.e., knock it off, no more making Google the default – are not particularly likely to transform the broader tech ecosystem.”

Other advocates, however, said the Justice Department’s timing – it’s only two weeks to Election Day – smacked of politics. The government’s “narrow focus and alienation of the bipartisan state attorneys general is evidence of an unserious approach driven by politics and is likely to result in nothing more than a choreographed slap on the wrist for Google,” Alex Harman, a competition policy advocate at Public Citizen, said in a statement.

Republicans and Democrats have accelerated their criticism of Big Tech in recent months, although sometimes for different reasons. It’s unclear what the status of the government’s suit against Google would be if a Joe Biden administration were to take over next year.

The Justice Department sought support for its suit from states across the country that share concerns about Google‘s conduct. A bipartisan coalition of 50 U.S. states and territories, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, announced a year ago they were investigating Google‘s business practices, citing “potential monopolistic behaviour.”

Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas joined the Justice Department lawsuit.

AP Technology Writers Michael Liedtke in San Ramon, Calif., Matt O’Brien in Providence, R.I., and Frank Bajak in Boston contributed to this report.

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Nav Canada warns air traffic controllers that job cuts are coming as pandemic crushes revenue – CBC.ca

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Air traffic controllers are being warned that layoffs are coming as Nav Canada pursues a “full restructuring” in response to a revenue slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, CBC News has learned.

CBC News has obtained a confidential memo sent internally to air traffic controllers on Thursday. In it, Ben Girard, Nav Canada’s vice-president and chief of operations, told staff that the company has seen a $518 million drop in revenue compared to its budget.

He said he’s been pushing the federal government for help, but — unlike some other countries — Canada has not released an industry-specific bailout package yet.

“We anticipate that until air traffic returns to higher levels, which will not occur until the end of this fiscal year, we will continue to operate in a daily cash negative position and this will be made worse as funding from the [Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy] program is ratcheted back,” Girard wrote. 

Girard did not say in the memo how many air traffic controllers will lose their jobs or which locations will be affected. The memo said it’s looking to reduce the number of “IFR controllers.” These controllers are higher on the pay scale and work at area control centres in Gander, N.L., Moncton, N.B., Montreal, Winnipeg, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.

The workers are responsible for controlling large amounts of airspace between airports using radar. Their job is to make sure planes keep proper distance from one another.

“I know this is very difficult news to hear. It is also very difficult news to deliver,” Girard wrote. “This is a decision that has been made at my level based on what needs to be done to ensure Nav Canada’s financial sustainability.”

Nav Canada manages millions of kilometres of airspace over Canada and used to provide air navigation services for more than three million flights a year. It’s funded through service fees paid by air carriers.

The Canadian Air Traffic Control Association said it is very concerned with the memo. 

“It is the opinion of this union that safety is not being taken into consideration in making sound decisions,” president Doug Best and executive vice-president Scott Loder wrote in a letter to members.

“Safety is the number one priority for Nav Canada and it has somehow taken a backseat to cost containment as the number one and only priority.”

‘We’re facing years of a downturn in air traffic’

In November, Canadian air traffic was down 54 per cent compared with the same time period in 2019, according to the memo.

“Over the summer and fall months, the outlook for the aviation industry has deteriorated significantly and it has become increasingly clear that we’re facing years of a downturn in air traffic that is much larger and broader in scope than we all initially believed, and will be much deeper and longer than any downturn in the history of the industry,” Girard wrote.

Nav Canada says it is conducting studies of air traffic control towers in Whitehorse, Regina, Fort McMurray in Alberta, Prince George in B.C., and Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor in Ontario that “will result in workforce adjustments.” The company is also looking into closing a control tower in St. Jean, Que.

Nav Canada air traffic controllers were told on Thursday that a workforce adjustment is coming because ‘the aviation industry has deteriorated significantly.’ (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Government ‘pressed’ for help 

The company has been focused on securing liquidity and tapped into the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to pay up to 75 per cent of employees’ wages, he wrote. Girard added that these payments are being reduced and will run through December, but Nav Canada isn’t sure if it can continue receiving that wage support.

“While an extension for the CEWS program through June 2021 was recently announced, NAV CANADA’s eligibility is uncertain,” he wrote.

Girard said the federal government has so far failed to come up with a bailout package for the airline sector, despite “significant lobbying.”

Last month, the Globe and Mail reported that the federal cabinet is working on a package for the airline sector that would include low-interest loans. 

Since Sept. 22, Girard wrote, the company has cut more than 700 managers and employees — 14 per cent of its workforce. It also let go of 159 students earlier in the pandemic, he added, and in November cut even more, “leaving just a few in the system.”

Along with the cuts, seven air traffic control towers are being considered for a downgraded level of service, and another 25 sites that are already Flight Service Stations — which provide only advisory services — could face more cuts.

Nav Canada’s board of directors has cut its fees by 20 per cent, and executives and managers have dropped their salaries by up to 10 per cent, Girard wrote.

These cost reductions, as well as access to government support through the wage subsidy program, have saved the company $200 million since March 1, he added. 

“However, that number still pales in comparison to the $518 million reduction in revenues as compared to budget,” Girard wrote.

“Despite these cost-containment efforts, we find ourselves in a situation where we expect our revenues to continue falling far short of our costs for several years, and we continue to require further cost-containment measures and indeed, a full restructuring of our business.

“In an environment where 30 per cent of costs are associated with ‘things’ and 70 per cent of costs are associated with ‘people,’ when all possible cuts with ‘things’ have been done, any further cuts will directly affect people.”

Girard added that he hopes the company can bring back some of the laid-off staff once the pandemic passes.

The Canadian Air Traffic Control Association said it will continue to challenge Nav Canada. The union hopes there will be “enough interest” in departure incentives for older controllers to offer them a package to retire. 

“The views of Nav Canada at this point are violating the vision, mission and overarching objectives of this company,” Best and Loder said in their letter to members.

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Nav Canada warns air traffic controllers that job cuts are coming as pandemic crushes revenue – CBC.ca

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Air traffic controllers are being warned that layoffs are coming as Nav Canada pursues a “full restructuring” in response to a revenue slump caused by the pandemic, CBC News has learned.

CBC News has obtained a confidential memo sent internally to air traffic controllers today. In it, Ben Girard, Nav Canada’s vice president and chief of operations, told staff that the company has seen a $518 million drop in revenue compared to its budget.

He said he’s been pushing the federal government for help but — unlike some other countries — Canada has not released an industry-specific bailout package yet.

“We anticipate that until air traffic returns to higher levels, which will not occur until the end of this fiscal year, we will continue to operate in a daily cash negative position and this will be made worse as funding from the [Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy] program is ratcheted back,” Girard wrote. 

Girard did not say in the memo how many air traffic controllers will lose their jobs, or which area control centres will be affected.

“I know this is very difficult news to hear. It is also very difficult news to deliver,” he wrote. “This is a decision that has been made at my level based on what needs to be done to ensure Nav Canada’s financial sustainability.”

‘We’re facing years of a downturn in air traffic’

Nav Canada manages millions of kilometres of airspace over Canada and used to provide air navigation services for more than 3 million flights a year. It’s funded through service fees paid by air carriers.

In November, Canadian air traffic was down 54 per cent compared to the same time period in 2019, according to the memo.

“Over the summer and fall months, the outlook for the aviation industry has deteriorated significantly and it has become increasingly clear that we’re facing years of a downturn in air traffic that is much larger and broader in scope than we all initially believed, and will be much deeper and longer than any downturn in the history of the industry,” wrote Girard.

Nav Canada says it is conducting studies of air traffic control towers in Whitehorse, Regina, Fort McMurray in Alberta, Prince George in B.C., and Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor in Ontario which “will result in workforce adjustments.” The company also is looking into closing a control tower in St. Jean, Quebec.

Nav Canada air traffic controllers were told today a workforce adjustment is coming because “the aviation industry has deteriorated significantly.” (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Government ‘pressed’ for help 

The company has been focused on securing liquidity and tapped into the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy to pay up 75 per cent of employees wages, he wrote. Girard added these payments are being reduced and will run through December, but Nav Canada isn’t sure if it can continue receiving that wage support.

“While an extension for the CEWS program through June 2021 was recently announced, NAV CANADA’s eligibility is uncertain,” wrote Girard.

Girard said the government has so far failed to come up with a bailout package for the airline sector, despite “significant lobbying.”

Last month, the Globe and Mail reported the federal cabinet is working on a package for the airline sector that would include low-interest loans. 

Since September 22, Girard wrote, the company has cut more than 700 managers and employees — 14 per cent of its workforce. It also let go 159 students earlier in the pandemic, he added, and in November cut even more, “leaving just a few in the system.”

Along with the cuts, seven air traffic control towers are being considered for a downgraded level of service and another 25 sites that are already Flight Service Stations — which provide only advisory services — could face more cuts.

Nav Canada’s board of directors has cut its fees by 20 per cent, and executives and managers have dropped their salaries by up to 10 per cent, Girard wrote.

These cost reductions, and access to government support through the wage subsidy program, have saved the company $200 million since March 1, he added. 

“However, that number still pales in comparison to the $518 million reduction in revenues as compared to budget,” wrote Girard.

“Despite these cost-containment efforts, we find ourselves in a situation where we expect our revenues to continue falling far short of our costs for several years, and we continue to require further cost-containment measures and indeed, a full restructuring of our business.

“In an environment where 30 per cent of costs are associated with ‘things’ and 70 per cent of costs are associated with ‘people’, when all possible cuts with ‘things’ have been done, any further cuts will directly affect people.”

Girard added that he hopes the company can bring back some of the laid-off staff once the pandemic passes.

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Windsor-Essex COVID-19 numbers already in 'red' status, says health unit – Windsor Star

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Of those new cases, 19 are close contacts of previously confirmed case, five are workers in the agri-farm sector, two are related to travel to the U.S., two were the result of community transmission, and 14 remain under investigation.

As of Wednesday, Windsor-Essex has 341 active cases of the novel coronavirus. 3,005 local cases are considered resolved.

To date, there have been 77 local deaths related to COVID-19.

There are currently outbreaks associated with five long-term care facilities or retirement homes, two agri-farm workplaces, two schools, two residential buildings (Riverplace Residence and Victoria Manor), and one place of worship.

Theresa Marentette, CEO and chief nursing officer of the WECHU, said on Wednesday that the outbreak at Frank W. Begley Public School now involves 43 cases of COVID-19, while the outbreak at W. J. Langlois Catholic Elementary School remains at four cases.

Investigation and analysis of the school outbreaks are ongoing.

Late Wednesday, the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board announced that it had dismissed a cohort of 24 students from Corpus Christi Catholic Middle School in the city’s east end after receiving notification of a confirmed case of COVID-19.

The confirmed case was part of the Sports Academy program at Central Park Athletics and didn’t attend the main campus of Corpus Christi, the separate school board said in a news release.

The Applebee’s Restaurant location at 2187 Huron Church Rd. in Windsor is shown in this October 2018 Google Maps image. Photo by Google Maps /Windsor Star

Other recent public exposure notifications include an Applebee’s Restaurant in Windsor (2187 Huron Church Rd., Unit 240) and Tabouli by Eddy’s, a restaurant in Tecumseh (1614 Lesperance Rd., Unit 5).

The potential exposure dates and times at the Applebee’s were: Nov. 19, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Nov. 21, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and Nov. 22, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The potential exposure dates and times at Tabouli by Eddy’s were: Nov. 17, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Nov. 21, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and Nov. 22, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Previous public exposure locations named this month include RIA Financial in Leamington (54 1/2 Erie St. South), Deer Run Church in Leamington (1408 Deer Run Rd.), and Food Basics in Tecumseh (1655 Manning Rd.).

Visit wechu.org for more information about the COVID-19 situation in Windsor-Essex.

dchen@postmedia.com

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit’s list of potential COVID-19 exposure locations in the region, as of Nov. 25, 2020. Photo by Windsor-Essex County Health Unit /Windsor Star

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