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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Google's using my pipes for (almost) free! ... Whinge 2.0

Tip of that hat to Tim Poulus for pointing me towards this amusingly partisan "study" about the fact that consumers - and implicitly their broadband providers - are "subsidising" Google's use of the Internet access. Sponsored by a "a pro-competition e-forum funded by broadband interests" , it contains meaningless statements like "Google used 16.5% of all U.S. consumer Internet traffic in 2008" and so many non-sequiturs that I've run out of derisory analogies to use.

Funny, I always thought US consumers used Google, rather than the other way around.

Google's own pithy rebuttal is here

Honestly, both fixed and mobile operators need to get real about Net Neutrality, before it comes round and bites them on their collective backside. How would they react if some of the larger Internet companies started displaying announcements saying things like

"You appear to be using CompanyX as your ISP / mobile broadband provider. We will be ceasing to support access for users from that provider in 12 months time. We suggest you churn to CompanyY or CompanyZ, which have more enlightened policies on Net Neutrality"

Who do you think would win in a "battle of loyalty" between Google or FaceBook, versus a typical ADSL or HSDPA provider?

Going forward, I'm half-expecting Google to start charging unfriendly ISPs or cableco's. "$0.02 per search, unless you want your customers to get a 3-second interstitial advert for your competitors"

This is why I find it hard to get exercised by the lobbying around this area. The market will sort it out - if they keep whining, "pipe" providers are going to get taught some hard lessons about market power and competition. This isn't rocket science - it's been in strategy textbooks for 30 years. As Tim says - the answer's in the business model, and in the locked-up capabilities of operators' networks and billing systems and customer devices. Exploit your existing assets, not your Washington lobbying budget.


rabagley said...

I don't believe that Google would ever insert a 3-second ad into the search process. They (full disclosure--we) care far too much about the user experience and that ad would be nothing but bad user experience.

I live and work under the distinct impression that Google would rather not exist than leave the user feeling screwed, or even particularly put out.

How that would balance with the (thankfully) theoretical existence of anti-net neutrality laws remains to be seen. Luckily for the typical internet user, Google is aware that it's core interests align very tightly with the individual user. Since Google is in a position to argue, lobby, and litigate on behalf of individuals (and itself), there seems to be a good chance that we won't have to deal with anti-net neutrality laws at all.

My fingers remain crossed.

Dean Bubley said...

I agree that a 3-sec ad would be a lousy user experience and I wouldn't expect Google to ever be that intrusive.

I was just using it as an (extreme) example of what Google could bring to bear if the operators really wanted to start playing hardball, either commercially or through lobbied-for regulation.

However, it could certainly identify inbound search users by ISP - and expose that data to conventional sidebar advertisers, perhaps at preferential rates.

Or it could give VPN clients to those users, and funnel *all* traffic through Google's network, depriving the operator of useful data about applications / destinations and so forth.

Bottom line - Google has plenty of weapons at its disposal to make things even more uncomfortable for ISPs who behave in a heavy-handed fashion.