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European Telecoms Plan to Block Ads in Plan to "Make Google Pay Its Fair Share"

1439671814_b5a456f971_bThere’s a report going around today that several European mobile operators are going to start blocking ads.

Unhappy with only being paid once for the traffic going through their network,  these telecoms reportedly told The Financial Times that they’ve set the stage for a battle with digital media companies such as Google, AOL, and Yahoo:

An executive at a European carrier confirmed that it and several of its peers are planning to start blocking adverts this year.

The executive said that the carrier will initially launch an advertising-free service for customers on an opt-in basis.

But it is also considering a more radical idea that it calls “the bomb”, which would apply across its entire network of millions of subscribers at once. The idea is to specifically target Google, blocking advertising on its websites in an attempt to force the company into giving up a cut of its revenues.

It’s not clear to this blogger whether the plan is to target Google’s sites specifically or its ad networks (Business Insider suggests the latter), but either way this plan is just as bad of an idea this time around as it was when the French telecom Free tried it a couple years ago.

In late 2012, Free updated the modems used by its customers to include ad-blocking software which was enabled by default. The move was seen as an attempt to force Google to "pay its fair share". That effort lasted about a week before Free was spanked by the French Digital Economy minister, Fleur Pellerin, who forced Free to disable the ad-blocking.

And now it looks like telecoms are going to try it again.

Apparently this time around the interest is being sparked by an Israeli startup which has developed a network level ad-blocking service. According to Business Insider, Shine has a bunch of telecoms interested. Shine’s tech could be used in any number of ways by the telecoms:

They could choose to make it a premium service, where customer pays a couple of dollars extra a month or year. They could make it an opt-in, where customers get their rates dropped because they are using less infrastructure. It could be completely free, or even pre-loaded on smartphones.

It is also the carriers who will decide how much they will charge publishers, developers, and ad tech companies to get their content and networks "unblocked" from the system.

*rude words deleted*

Folks, I fully support your decision to improve your browsing experience by blocking ads, and if the telecoms were actually acting in their customers' interests I would not be quite so upset.

What we’re looking at here are a bunch of companies that want to be paid twice for the same traffic over their networks. They’ve already been paid once by the consumers and businesses who receive the content, and now the telecoms want to be paid a second time by the websites that send the content.

That is greed, pure and simple, and while I can accept that motivation I do not appreciate their chosen tactic. The telecoms are willing to harm me and other websites in order to pressure Google.

Google might be dependent on those ads, but so am I. Blocking ad networks harms far more than the ad network itself, but the telecoms don’t care about that side effect to their stupid game.

image by Wrote,  jacilluch

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1 May 15, 2015 um 3:40 pm

Google uses https on most(all?) of their sites.
That makes it impossible to block ads at the network level without causing the browser to warn the user about a man in the middle attack.

Nate Hoffelder May 15, 2015 um 3:48 pm

In that case there is no way to only attack Google. The telecoms will have to hurt publishers as well.

Thanks for pointing that out. I hadn’t thought of it.

jjj May 15, 2015 um 3:52 pm

It won’t work because ultimately everything that goes through the pipe is the user’s content, even the ads. It’s my choice to see those ads and they don’t get to mess with it. Makes no difference if they mess with the ads or Netflix or crucial things like financial data. They touch it , they get sued into the ground by both users and Google (too bad suits don’t go to jail in our"civilized" society). Blocking anything should be all kind of criminal charges in a sane world. Those ads are part of a commercial transaction between a service provider and the user so , not sure what the most appropriate term is but theft or robbery sounds about right.
And then, it’s a breach of privacy to look at the traffic.

puzzled May 15, 2015 um 8:14 pm

Anyone think it will take longer than a week to change the ad generation systems to defeat anything they roll-out? If that long?

Nate Hoffelder May 15, 2015 um 8:58 pm

I don’t think it will take that long.

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