Who will own the internet?

An attendee uses a computer to sign in for the Google I/O developers conference on May 15, 2013 in San Francisco, Calif.

Tech companies like Google and Facebook don’t just want to dominate the web, they also want to takeover the pipes that bring you the Internet. For example, Google has been laying cables in the oceans around Asia and Facebook has secured fiber cables to move traffic back-and-forth from its data centers.

Right now, access to the Internet is still largely controlled by telecom companies, said Allan Hammond, the director of the Broadband Institute at Santa Clara University. To explain why the tech companies might want a biger part of that pie, Hammond launches into a a fairy tale of the “Three Billy Goats Gruff”...

"There were three billy goats gruff, who wanted to cross the bridge to eat the grass on the other side," Hammond says. 

The first goat tries to cross but the troll living under the bridge, tells him to get off.   

"In this case, the troll under the bridge are the telecom companies," he says.  

The bridge is the Internet pipeline that they control. And the goats are tech companies like Google, Netflix and Amazon who need the bridge to deliver their content. In the fairy tale, the goats get rid of the troll. But in real life Hammond says, the tech companies have decided to build their own bridge. 

He adds that companies like Verizon have made it clear that they want to start charging tech giants for distributing data heavy content like video. But Dan Bieler, a telecom analyst at Forrester, says it's not just video that the tech giants are worried about. As our lives move onto the cloud tech companies will need an ever-bigger bigger pipeline.

"If you upload a document on Dropbox, if you use Google apps" you're using the cloud, Beiler said.  And more-and-more companies are ditching their servers and renting space on Amazon, Google and Microsoft’s cloud.

About the author

Queena Kim covers technology for Marketplace. She lives in the Bay Area.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...