Denis O’Brien has another swipe at Facebook

Cantillon: Digicel owner says democracy ‘under threat’ from social media platform

Denis O’Brien: “Everybody who derives a benefit from a customer using broadband should contribute to the cost.” Photograph: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Denis O’Brien: “Everybody who derives a benefit from a customer using broadband should contribute to the cost.” Photograph: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

 

Denis O’Brien, owner of the Digicel telecoms business, has long been critical of Facebook and the way it goes about its business.

Six years ago, O’Brien described the Facebook business model as that of someone who comes to your party and “drinks your champagne, and kisses your girls”, but never pays their way. This is a reference to the fact that companies like Facebook have capitalised on the vast investments in broadband networks made by the likes of Digicel without contributing to the cost of the pipes and wires.

Just last month, during a lecture at Cambridge University in memory of the late Fianna Fáil minister for finance Brian Lenihan, the Irish entrepreneur said democracy was “under threat” from Facebook, which he claimed was “allowing its platform to facilitate anarchy”.

‘Dramatic pivot’

In a video for the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development (an entity co-founded by Unesco in 2010) published last month, O’Brien noted how about 3.5 billion people, mostly in the developing world, have no access to broadband.

His solution is a “dramatic pivot” so that “everybody who derives a benefit from a customer using broadband should contribute to the cost”.

“In Africa alone, $100 billion is needed to build broadband networks,” he said. “If we change the way these are paid for and not just leave it to telcos and governments but instead get OTT [Over the Top providers of content via broadband] to contribute to the cost of these networks we will make a dramatic difference.”

‘A game-changer’

According to O’Brien, Facebook (or should that be Meta?) derives $2-$2.50 in monthly revenue per customer in Africa. “If they were to pay 10 per cent of these revenues, say 25c per user, into a fund that is paying for this $100 million dollar rollout of broadband this would make a substantial difference. Not alone would Facebook pay but every OTT that derives a benefit from attracting customers using broadband that we all contribute to would be a game-changer.”

Interestingly, the broadband commission video on YouTube is dated October 28th, 2021, some four days after O’Brien told the Cambridge audience that “Facebook generates the equivalent of one dollar per month per Facebook user” in Africa.

While the lower figure would still amount to a tidy sum, O’Brien might want to get his numbers straight before his next swipe at Facebook.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.