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Which Internet Gatekeeper Discriminates the Most? Alphabet-Google

If proponents of network neutrality, an Internet non-discrimination principle, truly care about preventing discrimination on the Internet, why do they turn a blind eye to the worst offender of gatekeeper discrimination on the Internet – Alphabet-Google?

Recently, the Internet Association, which Google co-founded and funds, criticized the Federal Communications Commission for its proposal on network neutrality and utility regulation of Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Internet Association President Michael Beckerman stated: “ISPs should not be able to use their position as gatekeepers to prioritize their own content over others.”

Apparently, the net neutrality movement has a hypocritical double standard on gatekeeper discrimination. It has one for their chosen opponents – ISPs, and another for their allies and patrons like Google.

They maximally regulate competitive ISPs as monopolies engaged in anti-competitive discrimination, when they are not on both counts. They stay silent and do nothing when a real monopoly anti-competitively discriminates.

How can net neutrality proponents be so incensed about an imagined ISP net neutrality problem and so indifferent to a real anti-competitive and discriminatory gatekeeper problem on the Internet – Google?

They must ignore the facts.

While Alphabet-Google is a competitive ISP offering Internet access via Google-Fiber and its Project Fi mobile broadband service, it is also the dominant provider of search services, search syndication, and search advertising, per the DOJ and FTC, and dominant in mobile operating systems, per EU antitrust authorities.

Now look who discriminates non-neutrally.

Alphabet-Google operates the highest capacity, most used, global Internet network of data centers, dark fiber, submarine cables, points of presence, and proxy servers in most of the world’s countries. Google-YouTube streams over a billion hours of video a day for over a billion users globally. To grasp how huge Google’s network is, consider in 2013, Google experienced a complete network blackout for 5 minutes and Internet traffic promptly plunged 40%. In 2015, Ben Fried, Google’s CIO told the WSJ that Google favors traffic from its flagship Search, YouTube and Gmail services over other traffic handled by its public Google Cloud Platform.

With over two billion Android devices, Google’s Android operating system is the most widely used in the world with 87% global market share per Strategy Analytics. The function of an operating system is to prioritize or discriminate between competing computing operations and apps to maximize performance.

No surprise that Google-Android could prove so discriminatory commercially. 80% of the top twenty downloaded Android apps are Google-owned. How did that happen? EU antitrust authorities have officially charged Google with anti-competitively forcing handset manufacturers and carriers to pre-install several Google apps on the handset’s home screen before shipment.

Google search, with two billion users, discriminates commercially. According to more EU antitrust charges against Google, their search investigations have found that Google “systematically favors” its own services over competitors’ services. In addition, the EU’s Android case charges Google with anti-competitively requiring Google Search to be the default search engine on all Android devices.

Despite long promising Google would “never manipulate rankings to put our partners higher in search results,” Google routinely discriminates in search. According to studies, between a quarter and half of search users are unaware that 3-4 of the top Google search results are ads, not answers to their query.

Google Chrome, has over a billion users and is the dominant browser globally with 54% market share per StatCounter. Chrome became dominant by Google discriminating in Google-Android contracts that require manufacturers and carriers to make Chrome the default browser on Android handsets.

Even Google’s Chrome browser does not browse neutrally. It routinely throttles Internet traffic by discriminating against competitors’ ads that do not load fast enough for Google’s standards. And Google also offers adblockers over Chrome that can block non-Google ads.

In short, if Google and their Internet Association allies believe so strongly that companies “should not be able to use their position as gatekeepers to prioritize their own content over others,” they should lead by example and stop doing just that.

They should do as they say, rather than saying: do as I say, not as I do.

 

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Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, an internetization consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, some of which are Google competitors, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” Cleland has testified before both the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google and before the relevant House oversight subcommittee on Google’s privacy problems.

 

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