European mobile carrier Three is planning to block ads on its network. Three UK and Three Italy have signed a deal with Israeli startup Shine, allowing the carrier to filter out ads provided by Google and others to reduce bandwidth usage on their networks. Three describes the move as a way to "tackle excessive and irrelevant mobile ads."
Three claims it's objective isn't to fully "eliminate mobile advertising," but provide controls to its customers. Three wants improved privacy for mobile ads and relevant ads delivered to customers, but it's also pushing to convince advertisers to pay data charges for ads, and not customers. It's a big ask, and it's not entirely clear how Three will force advertisers to pay up.
"Over the coming months Three will announce full details of how it will achieve these objectives and will work with Shine Technologies and the advertising community to deliver a better, more targeted and more transparent mobile ad experience to customers," says a Three spokesperson.
Three isn't supplying many details just yet
Some of the web's biggest companies are already paying to get around AdBlock Plus, a popular extension used with desktop browsers to block ads. While Three's announcement lacks any clear details, it's possible the company could use a similar whitelist to control which mobile ads hit devices. Three has not yet revealed whether its ad blocking will be opt-in, or whether customers can create their own whitelists for mobile ads. Previous rumors suggested European mobile carriers might be planning ad blocking as a way to target Google and block its ads to force the company into giving up some of its revenue.
Three's decision to block ads will likely result in questions around net neutrality. Carriers in Europe and the US must treat data on their networks equally, and automatically filtering ads could violate those laws. Three could bypass this by creating a paid-for ad blocking service, or by asking customers to opt-in to any ad blocking, but that might not avoid scrutiny from regulators or pressure from the advertising industry.