Starbucks will serve you coffee but only bits of the internet

Written by on July 21, 2016 in Opinion with 0 Comments

Open DoorStarbucks has recently announced that it will block some sites on their free Wi-Fi. McDonalds are also filtering sites in their corporate locations. The Starbucks move is partly a reaction to pressure from a group called Enough is Enough, and, presumably a reaction to some of the sites their customers were visiting.

This issue of free Wi-Fi providers essentially regulating the internet is not new, but yet another debate for our times.

Not so long ago, the German Government ruled, in principle, that providers of free Wi-Fi are not liable for what their customers do on the internet, such as infringe copyright.

Perhaps it is a sign of the times, or a sign that the wind-swept, freedom of speech and, well, everything, internet is finally growing up and has to be governed. Thus the net neutrality debate that is rumbling on around the world.

The net neutrality debate, of course, focuses on network operators, which brings up a rather interesting question.


If network operators are obliged to provide fair access to all, then why not Starbucks? Or McDonalds?

It seems that, in a world where access to the internet can be provided by anyone, they can be judge and jury on what their customers can do and not do. And that seems contrary to the whole concept of an open internet.

Ad blockers do it too. In fact, they definitely act as judge and jury. They will block adverts, for sure, but they generally, also, have a ‘white list’ of adverts that they will let through.

As we have said before, the contract between certain organisations and their customers needs to reviewed. When we signed up to Facebook in exchange for them retargeting our data so that badly timed adverts could be thrown into our timelines, it isn’t exactly what we meant.

This issue is becoming a mess and regulators are in the middle of it, trying to provide various versions of net neutrality, while ignoring the fact that other ‘service providers’ such as Starbucks and the ad blocking community are happily dictating what users of the internet can and cannot do.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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