Google Blocks YouTube Access on Amazon Devices: The Irony is Astounding
Google now is blocking YouTube access on Amazon Amazon Echo Show or Amazon Fire TV devices. Blocking: as in, Google denies Amazon Echo Show or Fire TV users access to a lawful app.
Ironic is it not? That is the sort of “not neutral” practice Google has argued internet service providers must be prohibited from attempting, under “network neutrality” rules.
To be fair, it is one matter when a government blocks access to an otherwise lawful app such as Google search. That bothers supporters of internet freedom, and should bother them.
It is quite another matter if an internet access provider were to try and block a lawful app. Despite all the heated rhetoric, in the U.S. market that has happened--briefly--twice to three times, with rapid reaction by the Federal Communications Commission and equally rapid retraction of those efforts by ISPs.
And, as a matter of policy principle, all U.S. ISPs understand that the FCC will not allow blocking of lawful apps.
Many have argued that internet freedom applies to all in the ecosystem: consumers, app providers and ISPs. Many also have argued that many practices said to be violations of network neutrality (quality of service mechanisms, free and subsidized app access, zero rating of apps) are in fact, not violations of network neutrality, but only business practices that ecosystem participants are free to experiment with.
So Google’s blocking of its lawful YouTube app from Amazon devices is not, strictly speaking, a network neutrality violation. It might be a dumb business practice that conflicts with the company’s “don’t be evil” ethos, but actual app blocking does not violate existing network neutrality rules.
Nor, some of us would argue, should network neutrality rules be extended to Google and other app providers. But some also would argue that freedom in the internet ecosystem belongs to all, not some.
In actually blocking YouTube access--something no ISP would anymore attempt--Google is acting as a gatekeeper. That is its business right, one might argue.
But neither is Google acting in a way it demands others behave: “not blocking any lawful app.”
It must be said. There are businesses that enjoy the best of all worlds: they are monopolies in practice, but not regulated, as others might be. Cable TV industry executives used to say that, entirely in private.
I am not saying Google or others need to be regulated. They should be free. So should consumers, other app providers, device suppliers and access providers.