November 4, 1997 in Nation/World

Senate Hearings Peer Into The Internet World Microsoft Case Expected To Be Discussed By Committee

Seattle Times

The Senate Judiciary Committee today will convene the first of a series of hearings to explore antitrust issues in the computer industry, and the current federal case against software giant Microsoft Corp. is expected to be discussed.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch called the hearings to explore the growth of the technology industry in general and the Internet specifically to determine how developments will affect intellectual property and competition policy.

Hatch is a Republican from Utah, home to Microsoft rival Novell and start-up Caldera. Caldera, which was formed by retired Novell chief Ray Noorda, has sued Microsoft on antitrust grounds, saying Microsoft locks out competitors by striking unfair deals with computer makers.

Despite Hatch’s home-state ties, he is also known as an antitrust conservative who only rarely backs government intervention on competition issues, so it was notable the judiciary chairman vigorously defended the U.S. Department of Justice case seeking a contempt action against Microsoft.

“The Justice Department’s action represents an important step toward ensuring an open, unfettered and unregulated information highway,” Hatch said.

“Particularly given Microsoft’s apparent strategy to position itself as a gateway or ‘toll-taker’ through which all users access the Internet, I believe vigilant enforcement of the antitrust laws now will be imperative to prevent a situation down the road which would prompt calls for government regulation of the Internet.”

Antitrust prosecutors accused Microsoft last month of violating a 1994 consent decree by using its near-monopoly position as maker of computer software operating systems to bully computer makers into giving its Internet browser prominent position on their products.

Microsoft is fighting the allegations, made in U.S. District Court in Washington.

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