GTE Files Federal Suit Over
From The Search Engine Report
Nov. 5, 1997
GTE has filed a US lawsuit claiming the US regional phone companies, along with Netscape and Yahoo, have conspired to monopolize the Internet yellow pages market and prevent companies with competing products from reaching Internet consumers. The suit was filed Oct. 7, with the US District Court in Washington D.C.
Perhaps GTE will be able to prove the regional phone companies, or Baby Bells, colluded on this particular project in violation of anti-trust laws. But it will have a tough time showing that the change within the Netscape Guide has limited competition as much as it claims.
The guide, produced by Yahoo for Netscape, has a Yellow Pages section. In this section, there is a map of the United States. Regions are highlighted by color and linked to the online yellow pages offerings from each regions local phone company, or Baby Bell.
GTE claims that the Baby Bells banded together in the Netscape Guide to produce a "national" yellow pages service, rather than compete against each other, as they had been doing.
"The [Baby Bells” couldn't beat us on a level playing field, so they pulled back their own national products, carved up the country into exclusive territories, forced competitors off key locations on the Internet and intend to divide the winnings among themselves," said GTE, in a press release.
Whether a court would agree remains to be seen. The map itself is clearly linked to individual products. It does not present the offerings combined as a single Yellow Pages guide.
More importantly, the changes to the Netscape Guide are not "effectively excluding GTE and other Internet Yellow Pages providers from Internet access points," as the press release describes.
Netscape is an important venue, but it is hardly the only place GTE and others can generate traffic. In fact, GTE SuperPages has exclusive placement deals with Excite, Lycos and WebCrawler, all of which probably produce more traffic than prime positioning in the Netscape Guide will.
Furthermore, while GTE SuperPages is not listed in the Netscape Guide, it does continue to be listed on Netscape's Net Search page's Yellow Page area. If Netscape were being monopolistic, it would hardly continue this listing. Likewise, Yahoo offers its own Yellow Pages listing, rather than a joint national guide made up of Baby Bell offerings. Again, this is not monopolistic behavior.
Earlier this year, GTE filed a similar suit in the Texas court system, where actions are still proceeding. Also earlier this year, online Yellow Pages-provider Switchboard asked the US Department of Justice to also investigate the arrangement, saying that it may violate anti-trust laws.
GTE Lawsuit Press Release
Netscape Guide Yellow Pages
Netscape Net Search Page
GTE Lawsuit Accuses Baby Bells Of Monopolizing Online Yellow Pages
WebWeek, Oct. 13, 1997