Trade Fact Of The Week
    Google News no longer serves Spain.
    December 17, 2014

    THE NUMBERS: Gigabytes of Internet Protocol traffic generated per Internet user each month,* projected for 2018 –

    Sweden 107.5
    Korea 91.3
    United States 69.8
    Japan 56.8
    Western Europe average 38.3
    World Average 30.1
    Mexico 22.4
    Spain 21.3
    China 12.6

    * Projections from Cisco, Visual Networking Index 2014


    Is Europe creating an information drought for itself? An introduction to the question, via wire services from Madrid last Friday:

    “Google said it plans to close its news-linking service in Spain in response to legislation under which publishers will soon be able to force Internet sites to pay for re-publishing headlines or snippets of news. In a statement, the search giant said the new law makes the Google News service unsustainable and that it will remove Spanish publishers from Google News sites worldwide and shut down this service in Spain on 16 December. The move also means readers in Latin America and around the globe will no longer find links to articles from any Spanish news publishers on Google News.”

    The legislation in question was passed in October and given the very generic official name Ley de Propriedade Intelectual (“intellectual property law”), but is more frequently referred to as “Tasa Google.” It requires online services like news aggregators to pay fees to newspapers in order to publish the snippets and links readers can click to get the full story from El Pais, La Vanguardia Catalunya, &c. By way of analogy, a similar law for physical papers and ink-based reading would require owners of newspaper kiosks and coffee-shops to pay the publisher when a passer-by reads a headline. Failure to pay means a 600,000-euro fine.

    Faced with paying recipients in order to help them raise their web traffic, Google glumly closed its news service for Spain on Friday. According to Reuters, the papers get 8 to 21 percent of their on-line traffic via Google News, meaning that the law’s consequence is (a) to reduce traffic and perhaps advertising revenue for the papers, plus (b) faded ability for outsiders to catch up on Catalonia’s independence drive, Real Madrid scores, and other useful news from the peninsula.

    The traffic-reducing Ley follows a similar German effort, which broke down in a week. More generally it looks like part of a trend: nervousness about the success of American internet firms, combined with the absence to date of European counterparts, appears to be launching a variety of national laws and EU-wide antitrust fulminations whose hope may be to narrow a perceived gap, but whose likely principal effects – as with the Ley – look to be (a) complications for European Internet users, and then (b) lower European information use.

    What then for Europe’s information future (and by extension, that of others looking to tax, firewall, etc.)? Cisco’s annual Visual Networking Index projections suggest that at least for parts of the continent, an information drought may indeed lie ahead.

    Each year, the VNI gives a five-year projection of Internet usership, data traffic, device use, and so on for the world and 23 individual countries. Its most recent one, peeking four years ahead to 2018, has high-info Sweden and Britain as unusual outliers; continental Europe (at least east of the Channel, south of the Kiel Canal, and west of the Oder) begins to fall behind.

    By the VNI estimates, European Internet users in 2013 were creating about 18 gigabytes of data per month, Japanese 23, and Americans 29; by 2018 the respective figures will be 38, 57, and 70 gigabytes per month. Spain in particular, now more or less tied with France and Italy in the European rankings, will be producing the least information per user among the 7 EU member countries in the table, and will also have fallen behind Mexico, Argentina, and Chile. An expanded table of VNI rankings looks like this, again in gigabytes of Internet Protocol traffic per month:

    Sweden 45.7 107.5
    Korea 52.4 91.3
    United Kingdom 28.7 72.9
    United States 29.0 69.8
    Japan 15.8 56.8
    Chile 25.8 48.4
    Poland 21.3 46.4
    Western Europe avg. 18.0 38.3
    Germany 15.2 32.7
    Australia 12.2 32.4
    Italy 12.6 30.8
    WORLD AVERAGE 15.0 30.1
    Russia 16.1 26.1
    Argentina 15.2 27.2
    France 13.3 26.5
    Mexico 10.8 22.4
    Spain 12.9 21.3
    India   4.3 17.4
    China   6.7 12.6


    Users & information -

    Cisco’s VNI Forecast Highlights Tool estimates information flows by for the world, 6 regions, 23 individual countries, and individual users, 2013-2018: http://www.cisco.com/web/solutions/sp/vni/vni_forecast_highlights/index.html

    Spain vs. Internet -

    El Pais’s 5-point summary explains the “Tasa Google”: http://cultura.elpais.com/cultura/2014/02/14/actualidad/1392399393_388548.html

    Spain’s Association of Newspaper Publishers (AEDE): http://www.aede.es/publica/home.asp

    Google announces its departure: http://googlepolicyeurope.blogspot.com/2014/12/an-update-on-google-news-in-spain.html

    Spain’s Ministry of Culture, Education, & Sports has a laconic comment: http://www.mecd.gob.es/prensa-mecd/en/actualidad/2014/12/20141211-tasa.html

    Trade-and-Internet analysts at DC-based “Project Disco” look at the Ley de P.I. and potential conflict with World Intellectual Property Organization and WTO copyright agreements: http://www.project-disco.org/intellectual-property/121214-trade-implications-of-google-news-exiting-spain-over-ancillary-right/

    Irate commentary from ComputerWorld: http://www.computerworld.com/article/2859176/why-google-should-leave-europe.html

    And La Vanguardia Catalunya suggests some re-thinking: http://www.lavanguardia.com/vida/20141215/54421447820/fape-aboga-por-acuerdo-entre-google-y-aede-para-evitar-cierre-de-google-news.html

    U.S. & Europe -

    The U.S. Mission to the EU on science, innovation, and consumers: http://useu.usmission.gov/science_innovation.html

    The European Commission’s Internet policy page: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/communities/internet-policy

    And also on the state of the Internet -

    Akamai’s most recent State of the Internet (September 2014) tracks access, speed, security and other topics, around the world and across U.S. states (Korea is fastest at 24.6 megabytes per second, with Hong Kong second at 15.7 and the U.S. at 11.4; Delaware and Virginia have the U.S.’ fastest average connections at 16.2 and 14.6 mbps): http://www.akamai.com/html/about/press/releases/2014/press-093014.html