Photo: fdecomite at www.flickr.com
Half a world away, the Internet as it currently operates just withstood a massive test.Last week, France’s second biggest Internet service provider, Free, turned on ad-blocking software for its 5.2 million subscribers.
Google, the Web’s biggest seller of ads, and several French online news providers freaked out and appealed to the government for help.
Today, according to the New York Time’s Eric Pfannier, the French government took Google’s side and ordered Free to restore ads.
Fleur Pellerin, France’s minister for the digital economy, said that an ISP has no right to censor what consumers can and cannot see on the Web – even ads.
It’s an interesting thought-exercise to wonder what would have happened if the French government hadn’t ordered Free to restore ads to the Internet.
Perhaps Google and the news sites would have opted to block Free subscribers from accessing their Websites.
Or, perhaps Google would have said to Free: You can block our ads, but you’re going to have to make up the revenue yourself in the form of a carriage payment if you want your subscribers to keep getting Google products.
If that had happened, the Internet would have taken one big step closer to being more like cable, where the access providers have to pay the content providers carriage fees.
Maybe the Internet will end up looking like cable in this way in the future anyway.
There aren’t many brands that could hold ISPs hostage like that, but there are a few; YouTube and Facebook come to mind first.