EU hits Google with €1.49bn fine as Nigeria says Wifi service is illegal

20 March 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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The European Union has fined Google €1.49 billion for illegally blocking advertisers – and Nigerian’s telecoms regulator says the company is providing illegal wireless internet services.

The latest fine takes the total penalties the EU’s executive arm has imposed on Google to €8.25 billion in two years. It follows a 2017 fine of €2.42 billion for illegally hindering rivals of shopping comparison sites and a 2018 fine of €4.34 billion for illegal use of Android to block rivals.

Today’s fine, imposed on Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is for blocking rival online search advertisers.

Meanwhile the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says Google’s free wireless internet services in Abuja – the capital – and Lagos are illegal.

Google launched the Nigerian service, called Google Station, in July 2018.

According to Google’s own website, Google Station is offered in collaboration with 21st Century Technologies and Backbone Connectivity Network.

The NCC said: “Google operates in Nigeria without obtaining a licence from the Commission.” It also avoids paying the taxes and fees that other carriers pay, the regulator added.

Nigerian vice president Yemi Osinbajo took part in the launch of Google Station last year, when Google said it would deploy 200 WiFi access points across five cities within a year.

The NCC added that, in addition to the lack of a licence, “there are several other irregularities in the structure through which Google currently provides its free public WiFi”.

Google Station also operates in India, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines and Thailand. In India it works with Railtel, Indian National Railways and Pune Smart City.