Google and the long-tail lobby

On the Google blog, Senior Policy Council Andrew McLaughlin announces that Google has hired a lobbyist, Alan Davidson of CDT and is setting to work lobbying on behalf of net neutrality and fair use.
It will be great to have Google’s help to break the grip of mass media and monopoly communications over laws that protect their obsolete business models. Today, the US economy is hobbled by the power of incumbent industries to buy the law and protect themselves against disruptive competition. The only way this can change is for businesses that make money from the long tail to invest in buying the law back.
Citizen engagement is helpful — one of the benefits of fair use, community broadband, net neutrality, and other digital rights positions is that we have end users aka voters on our side. But if consumers stand alone against industry, things go hard in DC these days. When a powerful industry is supported by citizens, that’s a winning combination. When a politician hears from an industry lobby supported by citizens in his district, that helps him make the right decision.
Over the last decade, the telecom and content industries have done a better job than the tech industry at protecting their interest in DC. Telecom, cable, and broadcast have been heavily regulated for many decades. This has made these industries very good at lobbying — better at lobbying than innovating. So they use their lobby skills to defeat the innovators.
There’s a lot of money to be made in the long tail, and companies like Google and Intel are helping to protect that interest. Hopefully Google realizes that this won’t be trivially easy and will take a while. The blog post is very cool — it represents a major shift from the secretive world of DC lobbying. Participating in a public conversation can only help getting the word out about the value of the freedom to connect and create.
Google and Intel aren’t always necessarily on the side of public interest — Google’s business model has some privacy risks, and Intel has serious investments in DRM. But their investments in protecting connectivity and peer content help protect digital freedom and the public sphere.

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