Cleland's Google Fantasy as a Smokescreen

December 8th, 2008 by · 2 Comments

The web has been abuzz with the research study issued by Scott Cleland, claiming that Google (GOOG) uses 21 times the bandwidth it pays for.  It’s everywhere these days, but rarely do we get such a startlingly clear example of pseudo-research.  You see, this study had nothing to do with finding an answer, it had to do with finding justification for one.  Yet it’s such an obvious tactic, that I think it is more of a smokescreen than an attempt to convince.

I look at it this way.  I write this blog and I put it on the internet.  If I’m lucky, some people read it.  But if I’m really, really good, I might get popular, a true web phenomenon!  Downloads of my videocasts (hah, yeah right) might become a significant factor in the traffic swamping the internet someday.  Would that mean I owe Verizon or AT&T anything?  In other words, should there a popularity fee for publishing content to the web?  Google pays for access to the internet, and it produces a content and services that people really want to use, so we should penalize them for this?  Sounds like some kind of bastardized progressive tax system to me.  You know, it sounds like this:  if you’re rich you should pay more taxes to benefit everyone, and if you’re popular on the internet you should pay more fees so that those poor incumbent telecom CEOs won’t go hungry.

I’d write more, but much has already been said this weekend on the subject, and usually better than a lowly engineer such as myself can.  The best summary arguing against Cleland that I have seen is by Karl Bode of  It’s pretty hard to find a coherent argument on the other side so far, which is probably due to the fact that claims by the ILECs that internet traffic growth is crushing them are so obviously contradicted by their huge positive cashflows.

What may seem a bit confusing though is the simple question: “Why now?”  Why, with net neutrality proponents under Obama in the ascendency and an unfavorable net neutrality debate likely to rage early in 2009, should Verizon and AT&T make this argument now?  Personally, I think it’s all a giant smokescreen.  Why?  Because Verizon and AT&T already have what they want, a tiered internet with a paid express lane – only they call it a CDN.  They fully expect to lose the net neutrality argument and be forbidden forever to shape IP traffic, and they just want to make sure nobody notices that they don’t care anymore.  As their dumb pipes become more congested, they will just pitch their smarter CDN services to content companies as a way to gain an edge in speed and reliability.

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Categories: ILECs, PTTs · Internet Traffic

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2 Comments So Far

  • fanfare says:

    Google pays for the high speed bandwidth necessary for access to its services by millions. That requires a big pipe, and GOOG pays for it. While I understand T/VZ’s arguement, I find the premise to be unsubstantial.

    Consumers are paying for access. If they pay a carrier for high speed access, and they choose to access a GOOG site, then this is the choice that their money has paid for. Google pays-consumers pay. In fact, the majority of consumers pay for bandwidth that they rarely use. The bottom line here is that both parties are paying for the right to send and recieve data.

    I may email one person a month, yet I may recieve a thousand emails. Should we believe that I should pay more for my data pipe because I recieve more contacts than I initiate?

    While the existence of GOOG’s site(s) may initiate the use of more bandwidth than the pipe they pay for, this use is certainly being paid for by those who access the site.

    While there may alwasy be some reason to argue for more money, I think it is obvious to most that the solution is more bandwidth… not higher costs.

  • Rob Powell says:

    I like Tim Poulus’s take on it. Should Phillips (or GE) pay the electric company when they sell more light bulbs?

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