Stéphane Richard, chief executive at France Telecom, argued recently : “There is something totally not normal and contrary to economic logic to let Google use our network without paying the price”. I could barely control my hilarity.

But wait, there’s more :

Telefonica chairman Cesar Alierta said Google should share some of its online advertising revenue with carriers to compensate them for the billions of euros they are investing in fixed-line and mobile infrastructure to increase download speeds and network capacity. Alierta said that regulators should step in to supervise a settlement if no revenue sharing deal was possible between search engines led by Google and network operators. France Telecom CEO Stephane Richard said, “Today, there is a winner who Google. There are victims that are content providers, and to a certain extent, network operators. We cannot accept this”. Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann stated, “There is not a single Google service that is not reliant on network service. We cannot offer our networks for free”.

Whiners ! France Telecom, Telefonica and Deutsch Telekom are all historical monopoly operators that suffered the full impact of the internetworking revolution. It took them a while to realize that the good old times were gone for good, but I thought that with a good help of new blood they had reluctantly adapted to the new reality. Apparently I was wrong : in spite of  a decades long track record of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, executives at the incumbent club keep fantasizing about the pre-eminence of intelligent networks and how they somehow own the user. Of course I would not tax them with sheer stupidity – they are anything but stupid. This is rather a case of gross hypocrisy serving a concerted lobbying effort. And maybe after all they end up believing their own propaganda.

Users pay Internet access providers for – guess what – Internet Access. And most providers are very happy for their Internet access to do exactly what it says on the tin while they get well earned monies in exchange. Only a few of them have the political clout necessary for this blatant attempt at distorting competition – they are trying to leverage it but they will fail, again like they failed to stop local loop unbundling.

Ultimately, if large operators across Europe make a foolish coordinated move against Google, it will look suspiciously like a cartel. You can play that game with the national governments, but you definitely don’t want to do that in view of the European Comissionner for Competition.

Since Google is in the crosshair, I’ll let them have the last word :

“Network neutrality is the principle that Internet users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the Internet. The Internet has operated according to this neutrality principle since its earliest days… Fundamentally, net neutrality is about equal access to the Internet. In our view, the broadband carriers should not be permitted to use their market power to discriminate against competing applications or content. Just as telephone companies are not permitted to tell consumers who they can call or what they can say, broadband carriers should not be allowed to use their market power to control activity online”.

Guide to Net Neutrality for Google Users, cited by the Wikipedia article on Network Neutrality.

Update : I am far from the only one to feel slack-jawed astonishment at that shocking display of hypocrisy. From the repeating-something-relentlessly-does-not-make-it-true dept, Karl Bode at Techdirt published “Telcos Still Pretending Google Gets Free Ride”. You’ll find comments and more context there.