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Corporate Welfare

How much should Google be subsidized?

Pending FCC policy proposals in the National Broadband Plan and the Open Internet regulation proceeding would vastly expand the implicit multi-billion dollar subisidies Google already enjoys, as by far the largest user of Internet bandwidth and the smallest contributor to the Internet's cost relative to its use.

Interestingly, the FCC's largely Google-driven policy proposals effectively would:

  • Promote Google's gold-plated, 1 Gigabit broadband vision for the National Broadband Plan at a time of trillion dollar Federal budget deficits;
  • Recommend a substantial expansion of public subisidies for broadband that would commercially benefit Google most without requiring Google to contribute its fair share to universal broadband service; and
  • Regulate the Internet for the first time in a way that would result in heavily subsidizing Google's out-of-control bandwidth usage. 

I.   Does Google need more subsidies?

Google is one of the most-profitable, fastest-growing, cash-rich companies in the world, with over $10b in annual free cash flow, 17% revenue growth, and ~$25b in cash on hand.

Implications of Skype's IPO for eBay-Skype & Wireless Net Neutrality

Given that eBay's announced spin-off/IPO of Skype in 2010 is a material market event, this high-profile IPO represents a potentially tectonic development in eBay-Skype's (and FreePress') push for wireless net neutrality/Carterfone regulations and applying the FCC's broadband principles to wireless providers for the first time. There are much broader implications of this market development than many appreciate.

Some brief background information is helpful to understand the broader implications:  

  • Reports suggest that eBay's plans for a public IPO in 2010 is a result of eBay not being able to get a high enough private market price ($1.7b) for Skype and the fact that current market conditions are not ripe for initial public offerings. (eBay originally paid $2.6b for Skype and added an additional $500m later, then subsequently wrote down $1.4b of Skype's value.)
  • eBay-Skype unsuccessfully petitioned the FCC in 2007 to apply monopoly-era Carterfone regulations to wireless. The FCC did not grant the petition.  
  • The issue resurfaced again in Washington as FreePress, in a 4-2-09 letter to the FCC, argued that net neutrality should apply for the first time to wireless networks and specifically that Skype's voice application should be able to make calls over carrier's 3G networks.     

So how does eBay-Skype's pending IPO change the landscape?

My Investor's Business Daily Q&A on Google's ambitions -- white spaces lobbying

Brian Deagon of Investor's Business Daily interviewed me on Google and its leadership role in the lobbying for free use of the White Spaces spectrum.

Importantly, I explain that Google's definition of 'open' is very different from the traditional definition of 'open.'

  • Google's definition of 'open' is "communal, meaning not privately owned, communal with no restriction, no permission required."

Is the "Long Tail" just a Tall Tale?

A new article/study by Harvard Business School Professor Anita Elberse challenges the validity of the Silicon Valley mantra/theory that the Internet created a new "long tail" of demand for niche products that would ultimately undermine and overwhelm the offline trend towards "big hits."  

  • Thank you to Lee Gomes of the Wall Street Journal whose excellent article: "Study Refutes Niche Theory Spawned by Web" brought the new Elberse research to my attention.
    • From Mr. Gomes article: "Prof. Elberse looked at data for online video rentals and song purchases, and discovered that the patterns by which people shop online are essentially the same as the ones from offline. Not only do hits and blockbusters remain every bit as important online, but the evidence suggests that the Web is actually causing their role to grow, not shrink."

Why this is such important new research is that much of the Silicon Valley 'pixie dust' that fuels so many of the new business models involving social networking, crowdsourcing, etc. is predicated on the "Long Tail" book/theory by Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson.

Google's neutralism movement regrouping again -- Internet for Everyone

It's taken the Google-led neutralism movement two years to learn, and get on board with, what the broadband industry has been saying all along -- that Americans want broadband deployed soonest, and they want competitive broadband choice.

  • That's the real problem that the broadband industry and market forces have been steadily and successfully resolving in the marketplace over the last several years. 

It seems the neutralism movement may have learned that focusing on their manufactured net neutrality problem, and fear-mongering on threats to free speech -- could only take them so far politically.

What's Google got to hide? Google's CEO Schmidt ducks questions from the real free press

I couldn't help to notice yesterday that Google CEO Schmidt didn't take any questions from reporters who were in attendance or meet with the reporter pool afterwards, which is customary for speaking venues like Dr. Schmidt's speech Monday at the Economic Club of Washington.

What's Google got to hide in Washington?

  • Could it be that Google does not think that questions of a leading corporate CEO, who is now Chairman of the New America Foundation think tank concerning: antitrust, privacy, consumer protection, good government, transparency, openness, tax, net neutrality, and broadband Universal Service -- are not considered legitimate questions or fair game in Washington?
  • Do public questions of public leaders seeking ambitious changes in public policy and public discourse, not warrant an open forum for questions from a free press in a democracy?

Bottom line: It appears the only kind of "free press" that Google embraces is its advocacy group ally that calls itself FreePress, which is the operation which de facto runs point for Google's net neutrality public policy agenda in Washington.

"All-you-can-eat" bandwidth expectation shenanigans

I wanted to follow up and build upon my post of last week: "The logic of Internet Pricing Diversity and the Fantasy of free limitless bandwidth."

  •  I keep hearing this backward-looking refrain from net neutrality proponents that because some people characterize dial-up and early broadband bandwidth as unlimited or as an all-you-can-eat usage model -- that that model should never evolve or change.
    • Balderdash! This is some people's wishes being presented as analysis.

I believe U.S. Internet access consumers have come to understand at least two truths: 

Relevant Washington questions to ask Google CEO Schmidt at his speech Monday in Washington

Given that Google CEO Eric Schmidt is delivering a major speech at the Economic Club of Washington Monday June 9th lunch, given that Google's business model is all about delivering "relevancy" to users, and given that Google's public policy mantra is "openness," I have assembled some suggested Washington-relevant questions for reporters and others to ask Dr. Schmidt at and after this open forum.

  • The subjects of the questions are: antitrust, privacy, consumer protection, good government, transparency, openness, tax, net neutrality, and broadband Universal Service

Antitrust: 

  • If, per the FTC, search is a "unique" or separate market, why wouldn't a search-partnership between #1 Google and #2 Yahoo be illegal collusion when Google already partners with #4 AOL and #5 Ask.com -- and when the four search partners would comprise a de facto search cartel controlling over 90% of the revenues in the U.S. search market?

Privacy:

  • Should consumers and Congress be concerned with Google exploiting a privacy regulation loophole to offer personal health records management, when independent watchdog group Privacy International ranked Google worst in the world on privacy and Google refuses to comply with California law requiring posting Google's privacy policy prominently on its home page?  

Consumer Protection:

Unleashed: Transcript of Griffin/Cleland talk on Google, net neutrality, monopolies, click fraud, privacy

For those who like the written format, here is the link to the transcript of Chip Griffin's interview of me on all things Google.

This interview turned out to be one of the most comprehensive and in-depth discussions I have had on all things Google -- that's been captured for web listening or reading.

We discussed:

Unleashed! Why I focus so much on Google -- Listen to Chip Griffin's interview of me...

Here is the link to Chip Griffin's 28 minute interview of me on "Conversations with Chip Griffin," an in-depth conversation about many of the reasons why I believe Google is becoming such a big problem and why I personally spend so much time focused on Google.

I believe you will find it an informative, interesting, and entertaining interview covering all things Google, the online economy, net neutrality etc.

  • Enjoy!  

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths