Xavier Niel, founder of the French ISP Free, recently challenged Google by sending out an ad-blocking update to the DSL modems of all Free customers. Apparently, they want Google to assume some responsibility for the enormous amount of traffic being sent over ISP networks:
"But he has often complained that Google’s content, which includes the ever expanding YouTube video library, occupies too much of his network’s bandwidth, or carrying capacity. “The pipelines between Google and us are full at certain hours, and no one wants to take responsibility for adding capacity,” he said during an interview last year with the newsmagazine Nouvel Observateur. “It’s a classic problem that happens everywhere, but especially with Google.”
It didn't take long for the French government to respond to this tactic though, and they have ordered Free to cease their ad-blocking.
While it's entertaining to watch giant tech companies fight it out on the public stage, this story does raise some valid questions about who is paying for bandwidth infrastructure. It's a little early on for me to take sides on this issue, but there are clearly some lines that need defining.
Should high-traffic companies like Google be forced to help internet providers shoulder the burden of that traffic? If so, how much traffic is considered too much, and at what point should an ISP expect to be compensated by the "offending" company?
There's also a concern of net neutrality in all of this. Should ISPs make decisions like this on behalf of their customers, no matter how noble it may seem? This is one question I would personally answer with a resounding "No." Some people feed their families with ad revenue, and if I'm going to be doing any ad-blocking or whitelisting, I want it to be on my own terms, for my own reasons, not those of my ISP.
Either way, it should be interesting to see what comes of this chain of events.