Business O2 opens rift with news servers and content providers

26-02-2016 13:41 | Chris Johnstone

A rift appears to have erupted between one of the Czech Republic’s biggest Internet operators and most of the major media companies putting their content over the web. How this tussle will conclude looks like anyone’s guess.

Photo: archive of Radio PraguePhoto: archive of Radio Prague O2 is reckoned to have around a third of the market for offering Internet connection in the Czech Republic, either through mobile or fixed line connections. The company, now owned by the financial group of the country’s richest man, Petr Kellner, is therefore one of the major players along with T-Mobile and Vodafone.

So, news that it is mulling a proposal to block those rather irritating Internet pop up ads that block you from looking at the print or video content, has caused quite a stir. Basically, news servers and others point out the simple fact that blocking out such ads undermines the whole model of putting such content on the web.

The overwhelming condemnation of the proposed move comes from all the major Czech news publishers such as Mafra, Economia, and Czech News Center as well as the Czech Internet search engine and content provider Seznam.

O2’s possible move, which is exceptional among European Internet service providers, has raised a lot of questions as well as hackles. The telecoms company says the main reason for the move would be to speed up the Internet for customers as well as making life simpler for them by removing the annoying pop ups.

O2 has offered talks with media companies but few look for the moment like they are willing to seek any sought of compromise. Most say they will every means possible to defend their ad revenues. Some company spokesmen warn that the operator might start by blocking unwanted ads but who can tell if the step will not widen to unfavourable articles or editorial content as well.

O2 for its part argues that Internet users in any case are already install software on their own to block certain types of ads. Around one in 10 Czechs already opts for such a solution with one in four Poles taking the same path.

Rival telecoms company T-Mobile or cable tv and Internet connection company, UPC, say they have no intention of considering an ad bloc like O2.

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