One of America’s largest media and communications companies, Comcast, has reportedly joined the regulatory fight against Google’s stranglehold on the online advertising market.
Reuters reports that Comcast’s videos ads division FreeWheel has accused Google of using privacy concerns as an excuse to limit FreeWheel’s ability to sell ads on behalf of its clients’ YouTube Channels. This is the first time that a major U.S. company with its own set of Washington lobbyists has taken sides in the antitrust battle brewing in the world of online advertising.
Comcast said in a statement: “FreeWheel would embrace a solution that allowed it to continue to meaningfully serve its clients when they publish their content on YouTube, as it had for over a decade on that platform. Unfortunately, the actions to remove or degrade FreeWheel’s capabilities on YouTube fall well short of that.”
Comcast has reportedly been in contact with other technology companies to discuss the possible threat posed by Google but has yet to start a full-on attack against the firm. The issues raised by Comcast have been discussed by multiple other firms in the cable and ad technology industries but many have feared speaking out due to the chance of retaliation from Google.
But Comcast’s size and power in Washington makes the firm more likely to speak out about actions by Google that Comcast finds anti-competitive. Comcast, which owns NBC, Universal Pictures and the Xfinity Internet service, spends a large amount on state and federal lobbying and election campaigns.
A deal struck between FreeWheel and YouTube in 2009 enabled media firms such as NBC, Turner, now owned by AT&T, and Viacom to sell ads alongside their content on YouTube using FreeWheel’s technology rather than Google’s tools. But last year, Google disallowed FreeWheel to operate on YouTube in Europe citing the E.U.’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which imposed strict requirements on companies seeking to share consumer data.
Comcast is also worried about the introduction of a new Internet protocol which many believe could give Google a competitive advantage. The new protocol will be standard and is aimed at improving Internet security, according to Google’s parent company Alphabet. House investigators are now questioning whether data collected or processed through the new protocol will be used by Google for commercial purposes. The DOJ is reportedly aware of concerns and has already received complaints related to it.
Many cable and wireless companies, including Comcast, are worried that the new standard protocol could alter the Internet’s competitive landscape. They worry that they are being shut out of much user data if browser users move entirely over to this new encrypted protocol which many Internet service providers don’t currently support.
Comcast told Reuters that it was open to working with Google on the issue that would ensure that security and parental controls would not be broken by the new protocol but that “any unilateral action that limits customer choice will not work.”
Scott Westover, a spokesperson for Google, stated that the firm’s new protocol maintains “all existing filters and controls” and that “any claim that we are trying to become the centralized encrypted DNS provider is inaccurate.”