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10 Questions for Google's Tax Dodge

Top Ten: 

We learned today that Google has the lowest foreign tax rate of the top five U.S. tech companies, an eyebrow-raising 2.4%, and that Google "cut its taxes by $3.1b in the last three years using a technique that moves most of its foreign profits through Ireland and the Netherlands to Bermuda," per an outstanding investigative expose by Jesse Drucker of Bloomberg.

This exceptional tax dodging feat, while reportedly technically legal, nonetheless raises some important questions that no one has yet asked Google.


Google Fiber Lottery Preying on Distressed Communities

The Google Fiber for Communities pledge to offer one or more U.S. communities ultra-fast Internet access at one gigabit speeds, is Google's latest stealth manipulation of the public.

  • In essence, Google's fiber effort is a cynical national lottery that will result in just one or a few big winners and leave everyone else losers, with nothing to show for all their court jester efforts to entertain and get the attention of Google, the self-described "biggest kingmaker on this earth."
  • Apparently operating under Circus promoter P.T. Barnum's cynical "a sucker is born every minute" world view, Google is preying on the severe economic hardship and unemployment of over 1100 communities, by teasing Google fiber riches for one (or a few).
    • (This isn't the first time Google has preyed on distressed communities to extract the maximum gain for Google, see the sordid tale of how Google took advantage of the job-loss-ravaged town of Lenoir North Carolina -- here.)
  • Google is cynically urging cities to "dream big" when they know they will crush most all of their Google-generated dreams in the end.

How do we know this Google fiber lottery is stealth manipulation?

NetCompetition Statement on FCC's Broadband Legal Framework NOI


June, 17 2010

Contact:  Scott Cleland




“FCC Regulating the Internet like a Phone Company Would Enthrone “Ma Google”

“FCC’s Broadband De-competition Policy Would Accelerate Google-opolization of the Net”


FCC's non-technology-neutral proposals perversely promote discrimination -- per Phoenix Center report

George Ford of the Phoenix Center has penned another incisive analysis about the real world impact of net neutrality and the FCC's Proposed Open Internet regulations.

  • "Sabotaging Content Competition: Do Proposed Net Neutrality Regulations Promote Exclusion?" is an important read for anyone seeking a substantitve understanding of the impact of the FCC's proposed rules.
    • George Ford and Michael Stern's core conclusion: "...the proposed net neutrality rules of both the FCC and Congress... can actually promote such exclusionary behavior. That is, the incentive to monopolize is greater under net neutrality."

    The Phoenix Center's profound insight here got me thinking, (which is always my highest compliment) so let me share my takeaways building on their conclusion; takeaways that show why net neutrality is such an intellectually and economically bankrupt concept.

    • First, not only is net neutrality "a solution in search of a problem," but the FCC's proposed "solution" would make the net neutrality "problem" they allege worse than the status quo!

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.