In what would be an extremely controversial move, several European mobile carriers are reportedly working on a system to block online advertisements on their networks. Though none are named in the original report by Financial Times, the operators are said to be cooperating with Israeli startup Shine, who is developing the technology to accomplish the task. While specific timelines and details of the implementation are lacking, this would obviously have wide ramifications.
The report says multiple variations may be brought to market, possibly starting as an opt-in service. While it would block the types of ads you see on Android Police, the sponsored posts you see on social networks would be unaffected.
An anonymous carrier executive told FT that all parties involved are aware that there are potentially serious legal and business consequences if they proceed, but there is a particular goal they have in mind. Rather than offering an ad-free experience for customers, the mobile companies are trying to extract money from the likes of Google. Their argument is that advertising giants gain too much from the expensive, high-speed networks the carriers have invested in.
Google has of course countered that much of the content on the web is funded by payouts from advertisers just like them, which is true. They also argue that important aspects of the infrastructure exist due to the investment of Google and other major web content providers.
Probably more important is that internet service providers aren't martyrs or acting charitably; rather, you and I pay them in exchange for access to the stuff we want. In turn, that stuff predominantly shows advertisements as a means to make money (see Android Police). It isn't a perfect system, but forcing ad services to pay ISPs is not a solution. In fact, it's a pretty obvious violation of net neutrality rules and shows exactly why those regulations exist. ISPs cannot just choose certain web content to block pending what amounts to an extortion demand.
Anyway, only time will tell whether the carriers move forward with their plan. If they do, this surely won't be the last we hear of it.
- Financial Times