Bashing Google: For fun or for profit?

I do not know Scott Cleland, but I’ve seen his blog postings from time to time. I rarely read them, mostly because their titles tend to put me off, but I did read through his latest because of the title, “Google uses 21 times more bandwidth than it pays for — per first-ever research study.”

It seemed — to say the least — improbable, and I wasn’t all that impressed. Among his failures, this other Scott seems to think that I do not want the Internet when I buy an Internet connection.

Cleland’s Web site is well titled: “The Precursor’s Blog: Forward Thinking at the Nexus of Policy, Markets and Change.” At least on this site, he seems to be a one-and-a-half-trick pony, however. Most of his postings concern Google or network neutrality, both of which he is quite vehemently against. I read through the posted titles in his archive, and if they are anything to go by, two-thirds of the 250 or so postings that go back to March concern Google, and about one-sixth concern network neutrality.

It took me a while, but I did find some information linked off the Web site that may hint as to why Cleland focuses on the topics he does. If you click on the Disclaimer and Privacy Policy link hidden at the bottom of the page, you are taken to the privacy statement for Clicking on the About Us link on that page brings you to another page that states that their mission is to “create a forum to promote competitive Internet choices for consumers through an open, rigorous, and illuminating discussion and debate of ‘net neutrality’ legislation/regulation.” The page also has a list of the members of, which include all the major telephone and cable companies. Cleland is chairman of the organization.

So, it looks like bashing Google is an occupation rather than an avocation for Cleland.

Regular readers of this column know that I have real problems with some of what Google does — mostly concerning its insistence that it knows better than I do what is good for me and my privacy. But I doubt that any of my readers think that I’m paid based on how much I criticize any of the targets of my columns.

Now, back to the Cleland column cited above that caught my eye. Google’s stealing Internet capacity certainly would be a naughty thing to do, but the referenced research study has some basic problems that make the conclusion rather tenuous.

The report, written by Cleland, tries to figure out how much bandwidth Google uses and how much the company pays for it. The study notes that Google does not report how much bandwidth it buys or how much it pays ISPs for service, but he guesses at both based on other Google reports, and guesses at Internet traffic extrapolation from a Cisco report on types of traffic.

What the report totally misses is that there is another end for the Google bandwidth use the report talks about. When Google crawls my Web site, the source of transferred data is my site. When I do a Google search or watch a YouTube video, my computer is the destination of the transferred data. Apparently Cleland does not realize that I pay for my Internet connection, because he does not factor that into the money being spent on “Google bandwidth.”

I pay for a connection to the Internet, and in doing so, I pay for the ability to connect to and transfer data to and from such services as Google. So does everyone who buys an Internet connection, including Cleland. If one were to account honestly for payments relating to the Google bandwidth, one would have to include the percentage of my — and his — Internet bill that goes to communicating with Google. It takes two to tango and, in this case, two pay the piper.

Disclaimer: Harvard has several student dance companies, and I expect that two can tango in at least some of them; but neither they nor the university has expressed an opinion on Cleland’s dancing skills. So, the above is mine.

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