A French ISP has started blocking ads at the router level for its customers, enabled by default. Advertisers are, not surprisingly, upset.

What Free.fr is doing will probably not turn out to be legal. It’s clearly meant as a poke in the eye to content-driven advertisers like Google. It ensures a re-arguing of net neutrality.

What I haven’t heard is any objection by users. The move is, politics aside, a differentiator for the ISP’s service. It’s a product decision.

If consumers aren’t objecting, that tells me ad-blocking is an economic positive as judged by the market. It’s not unlike music piracy in the days of Napster: illegal, damaging to suppliers, but desired by consumers.

So a reasonable analysis would be not unlike Steve Jobs’ understanding of music piracy: a huge market signal to offer a better product.

Sadly, I am sure regulators will not allow it to stand. That’s a shame — I’d rather see customers vote with their wallets, and let Free and Google fight it out, ie, negotiate.

The Internet works because it is a voluntary system. Big ISPs peer with one another, often without money changing hands.

It’s inevitable that “peering” arrangements will also need to be made between content providers and ISPs. I’ve said in the past that the distinction between “content” and “infrastructure” is spurious, an accident of history.

Let’s have them sort it out. That’s what progress looks like.

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