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Corporate Welfare

Why a Lack of Openness Sullies the Integrity of Google's Ad Auctions

Does Google warrant the current exceptional leap-of-faith in the integrity of its dominant ad auction model, given its near total lack of openness, transparency, independent auditability, or third party oversight? There is a growing body of evidence that Google does not.

  • The New York Times article today by Miguel Helft: "The Human Hands behind the Google Money Machine" is a must read for anyone following Google or concerned about the openness and transparency of public markets. It is also a little treasure trove of fresh information on Google.

Why a lack of openness sullies the integrity of Google's ad auctions.

First, it is widely accepted that public markets operate best when open and transparent.

Google's ad auction model has become one of the world's most important public markets. Google is increasingly becoming the world's primary public information broker. Google brokers: 

  • Information for over 700 million search users worldwide, over three to six times their nearest rivals;
  • Advertisement placement for over a million advertisers several times more than their nearest competitors;
  • Monetization for over a million websites several times more than their nearest competitors.

Google is also not open or transparent.

Can you trust Google to obey the rules? Is Google accountable to anyone?

In monitoring Google as closely as I do, it has become increasingly clear that Google does not believe it has to obey the rules, standards, regulations and laws, that others routinely obey and respect. Google increasingly operates like a self-declared, virtual sovereign nation, largely unaccountable to the rules and mores of the rest of the world.     

  • There is plentiful evidence of Google's unaccountability; see the following analysis peppered generously with source links. 

The impetus for this analysis and documentation was Saul Hansel's outstanding New York Times Blog: "Google fights for the right to hide its privacy policy." 

  • In a nutshell, Mr. Hansel spotlighted how Google is refusing to abide by the Network Advertising Initiative's rule that its members must display a link to their privacy policy on their home page; and that this industry self-regulatory body is expected to bend its rules specifically to accomodate Google.
  • This is no isolated incident, shirking the accountability that most everyone else respects is near standard operating procedure for Google. 

Is Google accountable to anyone?    

First, can public shareholders hold Google accountable?

More evidence undermining Google's claim that net neutrality should not apply to Google

Only Google, which never met a self-serving, double-standard that it did not embrace, could overtly enter the business of selling network capacity and bandwidth to the public like broadband providers do, and still oppose net neutrality for themselves. (See my previous post where Google's Board recently recommended that shareholders vote against applying net neutrality to Google.)

On April 7th, Google had a press announcement: "Previewing Google App engine: run your apps on Google's infrastructure" (which was also picked up in a story by the Wall Street Journal). In that Google press annoucement, Google it made clear that it was going to sell network bandwidth to developers:

  • "The preview release of Google App Engine is limited to the first 10,000 developers that sign up, all of whom will be restricted to the free quota of 500MB of storage and enough CPU and network bandwidth to sustain around 5 million page views per month for a typical app. The preview phase is intended to gather feedback from developers. Eventually, developers will be able to purchase additional storage and bandwidth." [bold added]

Can any of the Google-defenders that regularly read this blog, and there are lots, please explain to me in a comment, how Google selling network capacity and network bandwidth to developers does not put Google clearly in the network or broadband business --competing directly with all the network providers, which Google has been lobbying furiously to apply network neutrality regulations to?

The fatal flaws in Lessig-Scott net neutrality editorial sermon

Self-appointed Information Commons messiah Larry Lessig and his Free Press acolyte Ben Scott, advance a slew of "beliefs" that they assiduously proselytize wherever they can gather an audience.

Britain’s Virgin Media CEO colorfully opposes the corporate welfare of Net Neutrality

Neil Berkett, CEO of Virgin Media, Britain’s second-largest broadband provider, “called the principle of network neutrality—all content being delivered equally to all users—"a load of bollocks" per eWeek’s article: “Virgin Media may ignore network neutrality.”

  • Berkett said Virgin is considering a fee-based system for content providers wishing to have their traffic moved faster than others.”

After looking up the definition of “bollocks,” it is clear that his comments colorfully echo some of the same sentiments in America that prompted Google to work with Moveon.org to organize SaveTheInternet and ItsOurNet (the predecessor to the Open Internet Coalition) and manufacture the net neutrality issue out of whole cloth.

The comments and the article are a powerful reminder of the fantasy corporate welfare economics of net neutrality, where users are expected to bear all the costs of video distribution for companies like Google and Amazon.

Why "White Spaces" is just corporate welfare innovation

The Hill has a good article highlighting the growing "battle" over "White Spaces", or the potential for use of the buffer spectrum bands in-between TV channels to ensure that there is no interference with TV signals.

more back and forth with Techdirt on Google fleecing American Taxpayer of $7 billion

I want to thank Mike Masnick for his good comment to my blog post. This post is part of a string responding to Mr. Masnick's criticism of my original blog post entitled: "Google unabashed about gaming FCC auction process to fleece the American taxpayer of $7 billion."

I accept his gracious apology for starting his original critique with an ad hominem attack and I in turn want to apologize to Mr. Masnick for incorrectly assuming that he was on Google's side when he says he has no side -- I take him at his word.

My response to Techdirt's defense that "Google did not fleece taxpayers out of $7 Billion"

This post responds to Techdirt's, Mike Masnick, who came after me for my post of Friday in which I estimated that Google fleeced the American Taxpayer out of $7 billion in the latest FCC auction. 

  • I commented on Mr. Masnick's post last night (#18) and Mr. Masnick quickly posted a response (#19) claiming my adding my "two cents" to the comment string about me -- was not enough in his judgment. 

So lets start with Mr. Masnick's retort to my assertion that most of the comments were just ad hominem attacks and not based on the merits of my charge that Google fleeced the American Taxpayer. Mr. Masnick replied that he and Derek used their names and why did I not respond to them.

Responding to criticisms of my $7 billion estimate that Google fleeced taxpayers.

Martin Geddes of Circle ID challenged my estimation methodology in reaching that Google fleeced the American taxpayer for $7 billion.  

With all due respect to Mr. Geddes, first his analogy of taking "a tasty apple, a yummy banana and a mouldy pear, is simply not analogous here. One doesn't pay $4.7b for a "mouldy pear." The regulations did not make the spectrum itself bad to eat, but simply restricted the use of the spectrum or in Mr. Geddes example how someone would be allowed to eat a good pear. People will pay less for a fruit if they are restricted on when and how they can eat it. 

Second, Mr. Geddes suggests I am confusing the American taxpayer with the American public. I most certainly am not. I am recognizing that there is a very specific law, the 1993 Budget Act, which effectively defines that the American public is the American taxpayer because the purpose of these spectrum auctions are to reduce budget deficits. One may not agree with how the law defines the American public in this instance, but that opinion doesn't change that it is the operative law here.  

My estimate in my blog was trasparent and simple so everyone could see how I got my figure.

  • The important point here is that Google fleeced the American taxpayer of several billion dollars, was it $7b? $5?b $9b? $3b? -- it depends on the estimating method.
  • My estimating method was straightforward, transparent, logical, simple and easy to understand. 
  • I stand by it until someone else comes up with a more defensible estimate.    

Google unabashed about gaming the FCC auction process to fleece the taxpayer of ~$7billion

Many have broadly swallowed Google's "spin" that Google really "won" by losing the 700Mhz auction -- without digesting the serious implications of Google's public admission.   

  • So needy to convince everyone that Googlers, yet again, proved themselves to be the smartest people alive, Google hasn't realized that they have unabashedly admitted to de facto gaming and manipulating an official Government auction statutorily-created to fully reward taxpayers for commercial use of public airwaves. 
  • Miguel Helft of The New York Times has the best coverage of Google's actions in the auction in his article: "An Auction That Google Was Content to Lose." 
    • Our primary goal was to trigger the openness conditions,” said Richard Whitt, Google’s Washington telecommunications and media counsel."
    • The article goes on to explain its nonsensical bidding strategy of bidding against itself: "For much of the first week, Google gradually topped its own bids. With no competitors emerging, anxiety grew."  

So what's wrong with what Google did?  

First and foremost, Google's flagrant manipulation of the auction rules and process fleeced the American taxpayer out of at least $7 billion, by my estimate.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths