News from the Future #2: Comcast Bans Google from Data Network

2 May 2030

Google logoPHILADELPHIA – Google, the world’s largest non-Chinese Internet services company, helps over 2.4 billion people to find their cat videos and webisode reviews every day. But as of midnight today, Comcast broadband network subscribers won’t be able to find Google on their slates or databoards.

In the climax of a months-long dispute between the two Internet behemoths over access fees, Comcast has blocked all access by its 81 million U.S. subscribers to Google addresses around the world.

“This is an outrageous abuse of monopoly power,” said Kennick Dahlgren, Google’s chief operating officer, in a San Francisco press conference this morning. “Google refused to pay the extortionate prices Comcast is demanding for access to its network, and now millions of people will be hurt as a result.”

But in an analyst call an hour later, Comcast chairman Carl Simonic retorted, “This is a huge win for our subscribers and for competition. Now people will have new choices for search and for other Internet services.”

The drama began last September once Comcast’s purchase of Yahoo from private-equity firm Broadleaf Capital finalized, handing control of Yahoo’s still-profitable email and search services to Comcast’s burgeoning portfolio of online service and lifestyle assets. Three weeks after completing the purchase, Comcast raised the network access fees it charged Google tenfold. The resulting battle has been fought in the news media and on Capitol Hill ever since, with each firm accusing the other of extortion and anti-competitive behavior.

A potential complicating factor will appear on July 1, when Comcast’s $682 billion merger with Charter Communications becomes final. The merger, which places 93% of the U.S. market for fixed-line and satellite Internet access under Comcast’s control, may mean that virtually no fixed-line broadband users will be able to access Google’s market-leading search, email, social networking and mapping applications.

HSBC Global telecommunications analyst Hu Tsi-Wan, who monitored the Comcast call, says, “The only winner here is Yahoo.”

Network access fees have become a fact of life for Internet firms ever since 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower court decision invalidating the now-defunct Federal Communications Commission’s attempts to enforce “network neutrality” on the nation’s telecommunications firms.

Broadband providers raced to buy up firms offering online applications, and began limiting the bandwidth allocated to competing services – a practice known as “throttling” – or slapping them with escalating fees to make them less accessible or profitable. For example, when Verizon Communications purchased faltering social-media giant Facebook in 2026, it immediately throttled Google+, Facebook’s closest competitor. When Charter Communications purchased Hulu in 2022, it raised the access fees it charged Netflix to such a level that the competing movie-streaming service had to accept being blocked from Charter’s network.

Outright bans of competing or offending Internet firms are not unknown. The most infamous example came during the 2028 U.S. presidential elections. John Hunnaker, the arch-conservative chairman of AT&T, banned the MSNBC news service and the rump legacy broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) from his company’s wireless network. In retaliation, Henrik Arvind, chairman of Verizon and a major donor to Democratic candidates, raised network access fees a hundredfold on Fox News, Fox Business Channel, and various other conservative outlets, driving them off Verizon’s network.

“This is what a totally unregulated telecommunications market looks like,” laments Wade Sandford, the last chairman of the FCC before it was disbanded in 2022. “There’s a reason no one else in the world does things this way.”

For now, Google services are still available through the AT&T and Verizon wireless broadband networks. Neither company would comment for the record.

http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-net-neutrality-federal-appeals-court-20140114,0,2138188.story#axzz2qgKJJj8C

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-et-ct-time-warner-cable-charter-offer-20140113,0,6186141.story#axzz2qgKJJj8C

 

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