For the last several months advocates for the nation's phone monopolists have been ginning up a public relations campaign against Google. They claim it's a monopolist. They claim it's a threat to freedom, a violator of privacy, evil.
It's being done in clever ways, through academics and think tanks you don't usually think of as Bell shills. Privacy advocates are being taken in, even the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
But it doesn't take a genius to see where all this is coming for, or where it's leading. All it takes is a little knowledge of the industry's history, a quick look at who stands to benefit, and a short Google of who's cheering from the sidelines.
Just read Scott Cleland's blog. Cleland, a notorious phone monopoly booster of long standing, has been hammering Google this year at every opportunity.
Google itself seems unable to understand the situation, or properly respond to it. CEO Eric Schmidt has tried to be personally charming. The company's other officials have sought to be transparent, and answer questions honestly.
Meanwhile, the stock market crash has hit Google hard. The company is now worth only about what Verizon is worth -- AT&T is now worth nearly twice that. And Google's stock valuation has begun tracking the phone giants. Suddenly it's no longer a growth stock.
How should Google respond? Aggressively. And it needs to understand who its opposition really is, the ruthlessness of that opposition, and the nature of the struggle.
It is a political struggle.
- Google isn't limiting how much Internet bandwidth customers can consume, or telling them what they can do with it. The phone monopolists are.
- Google isn't the "gatekeeper" to your use of the Internet. The phone monopolists are.
- Google has almost no presence in mobile. Verizon and AT&T control nearly all the real estate, and make both state and federal regulators dance to their tune.
I often write here about the phone and cable duopoly, in that urban consumers have only two choices for broadband service -- the phone monopoly and cable monopoly. But it's important to note that these are separate, and that Google can take advantage by dividing the two on as many issues as possible.
It's already trying to do this with mobile, partnering with cable operators in Clearwire. It needs to focus more public attention there, and publicly attack the Verizon-AT&T duopoly that currently controls the U.S. cellular market. Hit them where their profits are.
Google has extensive investments in "dark fiber" around the country, which is used (when it's used) to move data back-and-forth between its servers and consumers. But DWDM technology means that fiber capacity can be dramatically increased, at relatively low cost, and Google needs to publicly make that investment.
Mainly Google needs to get consumers to understand where their real limits are -- in the number of bits they can move about from their homes -- and who has been limiting access to those bits -- the phone monopolists.
In business, you must know who your opponent is and play offense. Otherwise you're going to get beat. Google needs to understand who its opponents are, understand that they are ruthless monopolists who will stop at nothing and have influence in all sorts of institutions you wouldn't expect to be in their pocket, then respond accordingly.
Just as important, Google needs to expose phone monopoly shills like Cleland for what they are. Follow the phone money, and make certain that the monopoly's media manipulation is as transparent as possible. Hire Bruce Kushnick, if only as a consultant.