Google Defends Net Neutrality Proposal

Google and Verizon’s joint statement on net neutrality and the internet (which apparently consists of three separate internets) wasn’t particularly well-received. Google has gone into damage-control mode, defending the policy proposal in a sort of get-the-facts-like weblog post.

The worries that arose from the Google/Verizon joint policy proposal were quit clear and elaborated at large. Google decided to counter each and every one of them, and in all honesty, they make a rather compelling case – but a few key issues remain.

The loudest complaint has been that Google sold out on network neutrality. The company has been quite active and vocal about the whole thing, and indeed, Google used to advocate for network neutrality for wireless networks as well, while the current proposal exempts them from net neutrality.

“At this time there are no enforceable protections – at the Federal Communications Commission or anywhere else – against even the worst forms of carrier discrimination against Internet traffic,” Google argues, “With that in mind, we decided to partner with a major broadband provider on the best policy solution we could devise together. We’re not saying this solution is perfect, but we believe that a proposal that locks in key enforceable protections for consumers is preferable to no protection at all.”

In other words – net neutrality on just wired networks is better than no net neutrality at all – wired or no. This is indeed true, but it still feels like a cop-out, clearly inspired by the need to keep Verizon happy. Google admits that it used to advocate net neutrality for wireless as well, but explains that a few arguments persuaded them to compromise.

“First, the wireless market is more competitive than the wireline market, given that consumers typically have more than just two providers to choose from,” Google explains, “Second, because wireless networks employ airwaves, rather than wires, and share constrained capacity among many users, these carriers need to manage their networks more actively. Third, network and device openness is now beginning to take off as a significant business model in this space.”

Another major concern was the part about additional services providers could offer atop the regular internet, which lead to people arguing that providers (of internet and of content) would lock away the good stuff in services exempt from the net neutrality and transparency rules. Google argues that the proposal includes enough safeguards to prevent this from happening, but I have my doubts. The definition of such a distinct service is far too vague for my comfort.

Many – myself included – see this proposal as a sort-of business deal between Google and Verizon. This double Baby Bell is pushing Android hard with several very successful phones, playing a major role in Android’s stunning success in the marketplace. As such, I get the feeling this is Google’s way of saying “thank you”, while also having something to hold over Verizon’s head in the future (coincidentally, this is why I don’t think we’ll ever see a Verizon iPhone).

Google obviously denies this, saying it’s a policy proposal, not a business deal. “Of course, Google has a close business relationship with Verizon, but ultimately this proposal has nothing to do with Android,” Google writes, “Folks certainly should not be surprised by the announcement of this proposal, given our prior public policy work with Verizon on network neutrality, going back to our October 2009 blog post, our January 2010 joint FCC filing, and our April 2010 op-ed.”

All-in-all, this is a though nut to crack, mostly because the FCC is anything but an organisation I’d place any trust in. Let’s face it, they throw major hissy fits over the smallest of things, like nipples and cuss words – things that wouldn’t even cause yawns in less puritan societies like my own. What exactly is “unlawful content”? Is it unlawful to show a breast? To cuss?

Would you want such an organisation to govern your internet? Remember, this is how you get your porn.


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