Denis O’Brien’s Digicel takes on Google and Facebook

Network blocks internet giants’ web ads in bid to force revenue-sharing deal

Digicel chairman Denis O’Brien  described   business tactics of web giants as “unacceptable”. Photograph: Reuters

Digicel chairman Denis O’Brien described business tactics of web giants as “unacceptable”. Photograph: Reuters


Digicel, the Caribbean mobile operator Denis O’Brien is preparing to float in the coming days, has started blocking web ads on its network that have been sold by internet giants such as Google and Facebook, in an attempt force them into a revenue-sharing deal.

Mr O’Brien has effectively picked a fight with the largest web companies in the world, which he believes unfairly generate revenue on the back of infrastructure such as Digicel’s network.

He wants the web companies to share with his company some of the revenue they make from ads sold during browsing activities by Digicel customers on its system. He described their business tactics as “unacceptable”.

Digicel is working with Israeli ad-control company Shine Technologies to weed out the ads of the web giants when Digicel customers browse the web. The system has been rolled out in Jamaica, with plans for all its 31 markets.

If successful, it will buttress Digicel’s revenue as it enters life as a publicly-listed company. Even if it goes nowhere it has the added benefit of keeping Digicel in the headlines in the run-up to its New York flotation.

Digicel said “companies like Google, Yahoo and Facebook” should enter into revenue sharing agreements with it to help pay for network investment.

“Currently, these companies do not pay to make use of the network and the services they provide on it suck up bandwidth to make money for themselves through advertising while putting no money in.”

Mr O’Brien said he wanted to “take a stand” to force the web giants to “put their hands in their pockets”.

“Companies like Google, Yahoo and Facebook talk a great game and take a lot of credit when it comes to pushing the idea of broadband for all,” he said. “But they put no money in. Instead they unashamedly trade off the efforts and investments of network operators like Digicel to make money for themselves.”

Google declined to comment on a statement Digicel releasedoutlining its position, while Facebook had not yet responded by the deadline for publication.