You are here

The Google Lobby Defines Big Internet's Policy Agenda -- Part 6 Internet as Oz Series

Google not only dominates the web, the Google Lobby also dominates Big Internet's policy agenda in Washington in part via its new proxy, the Internet Association, the self-appointed "unified voice of the Internet economy."

Since market dominance attracts antitrust scrutiny, it necessitates lobbying dominance. The FTC's antitrust investigation prompted Google to hire twelve lobbying firms in a week and to rapidly organize them and legions of law and PR firms into one of the top corporate lobbying operations influencing Washington. Tellingly, a Wall Street Journal op-ed lionized "Google's $25 Million Bargain" lobby and Politico got behind-the-scenes to explain "How Google Beat the Feds."

The formal founding of the Internet Association to influence Washington heralds Big Internet's arrival as another Big Business lobby, like Big Oil, Big Banks etc. How big will Big Internet Get? Google's Chief Business Officer, Nikesh Arora, told the FT last year that "the Internet industry is going to be way bigger than any industry out there in the next decade. It's going to dwarf multiple industry segments."

A key point here is that the Google Lobby exceeds the cumulative lobbying power of the all the other Big Internet members of the Internet Association combined. Since Google has the most lobbying, legal and PR resources, and the most boots on the ground in Washington to actually get things done, naturally it can, and does, drive much of Big Internet's agenda. In addition, the unique limitless breadth of Google's market ambitions also makes it the only member in the Internet Association directly affected by all Internet policy issues.

Google has long advocated that the Internet's interests are Google's interests and that whatever is good for the Internet is good for Google and vice versa. The Google Lobby has become the self-appointed Internet Lobby. Google fully understands that, given its long rap sheet, record number of privacy scandals and world-leading infringement record, Google's corporate policy agenda has more chance of success if it is cloaked behind what is best for "the Internet."

The thorny problem with Google's strategy is that it requires the rest of the Big Internet companies, and the non-corporate, anti-profit free culture groups, to carry Google's dirty water and to strongly defend Google's corporate interests even when it is not in their, or the Internet's, interests. Google has achieved lobbying nirvana, when its competitors and not-for-profits dependence on Google's resources compel them to protect and advance Google's corporate agenda.

The Google Lobby agenda is to:

  • Undermine copyright piracy enforcement to promote no-cost access to content online;
  • Undermine software patents and patent enforcement to promote use of open source and free software;
  • Regulate broadband providers with net neutrality and data caps, and undermine spectrum as property via pushing free sharing of government spectrum over spectrum auctions, in order to commoditize bandwidth to ensure Big Internet enjoys the business advantage of no-cost distribution of the no-cost content that they have monetized;
  • Prevent Internet users from gaining control of their privacy and private information online like they do offline by blocking: new consumer protection privacy legislation, the right and mechanism to personally choose to not be tracked online, and opt-outs from new privacy policies; and
  • Maintain the industry business advantage of paying relatively less taxes than any other industry.

"The best defense is a good offense" is apparently what the Google Lobby learned from its successful political neutering of the FTC antitrust investigation. Thus much of the Google Lobby's agenda this year is to go on the offense and push narrow Google-tailored legislation, overtly and through proxies, on issues where Google otherwise is vulnerable: copyright, patents, privacy and net neutrality.

To distract Congress from the real copyright problem facing the nation, piracy enforcement, Google and the free culture groups are agitating for narrow legislation that copyright terms are excessively long and not what the Founding Fathers wanted. Tellingly, their materials always ignore the critical fact that as recently as 2003, the Supreme Court voted 7-2 that current copyright extensions were not unconstitutionally long. They know this effort is misdirection and a big waste of Congress' time.

To distract from Google Android's mass patent infringement and anti-competitive abuse of standards essential patents, the Google Lobby is questioning the very validity of patenting software at all while increasing the demonization of "non practicing entities" that license patents as "trolls." The not-so-subtle Google message here is property-ownership is evil and anti-innovation in the software space. Again this is misdirection because shortly after the seminal Apple patent victory over Google-Android partner Samsung, Google VP David Lawee admitted Google "actually didn't invest in the patent ecosystem. We weren't patenting things as aggressively as we should have been. … We just didn't buy into the notion of protecting your IP and it was a wake-up call."

To distract Congress from the near total lack of privacy protection on the Internet, Google is supporting good and important legislation that would require government to get a warrant to get access to emails and other digital records like they have to for wiretapping, but this narrow pro-privacy position distracts from Google's broad anti-privacy opposition to any consumer privacy legislation that would give users the choice and freedom to protect their privacy, not be tracked online, or to opt-out of having their private information used in a way they oppose.

To maintain pressure for net neutrality regulation of broadband providers, Google, through proxies, is supporting broadband data cap price regulation and is promoting free spectrum sharing with government rather than the law and Congressional policy to auction spectrum to the benefit of the U.S. taxpayer.

In sum, since the Google Lobby dominates the Big Internet Lobby, Google's liabilities and problems are increasingly the Internet's liabilities and problems. Unlike what Google says -- that what's good for the Internet is good for Google -- what's good for the Google Lobby is not necessarily what's good for the Internet and its users.

***

Internet as Oz Series:

Part 1: The New Internet Association's Back Story

Part 2: Top False Claims of the New Internet Association

Part 3: Internet Astroturf 3.0

Part 4: Google Official Praises 'Partly Free' Regime's Privacy Law

Part 5: Could Google Be the Lance Armstrong of Tech?

Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths