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[ NNSquad ] How France Wants Us All to Pay Through the Nose for a Broken Internet

    How France Wants Us All to Pay Through the Nose for a Broken Internet


In his new article "Google vs. the press: avoiding the lose-lose
scenario" ( http://j.mp/WnFKF8 [Monday Note] ), Frederic Filloux sets
forth a cogent review of the current battles between the French
government allied with French media firms -- against Google and other
large Internet services firms.  He suggests that to avoid long-term
damage to everyone involved, the parties need to come to an agreement
where Google and other successful Internet companies would essentially
"share the wealth" with traditional media concerns and the like.

Filloux's argument is not trivially dismissed -- yet in the end
remains problematic and extremely worrisome.  For the logical
extension of the scenario he proposes could easily lead to the global
decimation of key Internet aspects on which we depend today, and
enormous new costs for ordinary users.

His argument that existing taxation regimes permit large corporations
to shield significant income is not one without merit.  But this
taxation situation has existed in one form or another for quite a long
time, and involves large firms engaged in all manner of international

Why then, do we see the French focus (and by extension that of the EU
in general, other countries such as Brazil, and ultimately far more
nations if such proposals are enacted) on Google and other successful
Internet services businesses?

A likely answer seems obvious enough.  Many so-called "old media"
firms such as newspapers are struggling in the Internet era, and the
French (and other) governments see both a financial and political
incentive to try force successful Internet firms to subsidize rapidly
obsolescent 20th century business models.

What's more, some of the new proposed "revenue enhancement" models
appear to be specifically designed to be easily "gamed" for maximum
government advantage.  Concepts such as taxation based on "numbers of
users" and "amount of user data collected" -- and similar ideas -- are
much more nebulous than regimes based on corporate income or profits.
One can't help but imagine the creation of a secret government
department devoted to creating as many phantom Google users as
possible, and sharing maximal amounts of fantasy data through those
accounts -- all adding to the government's taxation take.  Since
ordinary Google, Facebook, and most other service accounts are free,
there are few natural constraints on false account creation by a
technically proficient, particularly government-sponsored effort.

Yet just because these services are free now for most users, doesn't
mean that this will always be the case -- and it's the global
community of Internet users themselves who stand to lose the most
under the French proposals.

Already, we've recently seen a French ISP block ads as a form of
extortion, to try force payments by major Internet companies to reach
that ISPs' subscribers -- who of course are already paying for
Internet services, as are those Internet companies themselves.  But
many ISPs are no longer satisfied with being "mere" access routes to
the Net, and charging their customers appropriately for network growth
and management.  They want a slice of everyone else's pie as well,
even though the ISPs haven't earned it, and even though the end result
could actually be the death of free Internet services as we know them
today -- a potential disaster for all but the most well-
heeled users -- a new chasm of an economically forced information 

If the French government and its allies succeed in enforcing the kinds
of regimes being proposed, the likely result would be a spread around
of the world of ISPs charging every Internet service for access and
demanding a cut of their profits, all manner of snail slow vs. high
speed ISP-enforced Internet "ghettos" and "red light" districts, sites
demanding payments from linking sites (or even from users traversing
those links), and a cascading collapse of dominoes leading to very
much the kind of "pay through the nose" networking environment that
many of us have worked for decades specifically to avoid.

I have a great deal of sympathy for traditional media and the
challenges they face in the 21st century, and I realize that the
associated political and financial issues for governments are

But I strongly believe that to the greatest extent practicable, we
should resist attempts by governments to try turn new, successful
Internet companies into mass subsidization income streams for old
models which cannot find their own way in the Internet age -- with
subsidization costs that would ultimately fall devastatingly on the
backs of ordinary Internet users around the world.

Otherwise, we may very likely be bidding "adieu" to the open
Internet that has been the life's work of so many, served us so well,
and that has such a bright future -- while we'd be self-destructively
killing the goose that laid the golden eggs as well.

"Ca ne tient pas debout!"

Lauren Weinstein (lauren@vortex.com): http://www.vortex.com/lauren 
Co-Founder: People For Internet Responsibility: http://www.pfir.org/pfir-info
 - Network Neutrality Squad: http://www.nnsquad.org 
 - PRIVACY Forum: http://www.vortex.com/privacy-info
 - Data Wisdom Explorers League: http://www.dwel.org
 - Global Coalition for Transparent Internet Performance: http://www.gctip.org
Member: ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
Google+: http://vortex.com/g+lauren / Twitter: http://vortex.com/t-lauren 
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800 / Skype: vortex.com

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