For the past week the Internet world has been abuzz with the Google/Verizon deal and how it will affect Net Neutrality. For those of you who have heard me speak at conferences or listened to my radio show you’ll know that I’m not the biggest supporter of Net Neutrality legislation. I tend to take a pretty hard line in a debate (almost always against Jim Hedger) but so does he and it makes for an entertaining debate with him referring to me as a closed minded hater of equality and me accusing him of communist tendencies and wanting to implement policies and laws that counter the entire spirit of capitalism. It’s a fun debate.
But today we saw eye-to-eye Jim and I. While we may argue the reasons we agree – we both object to the way that Google is handling the current issue with their Verizon deal that would give their 1’s and 0’s a bit of preferential treatment. More on that in just a bit. First – let’s get some basic history on Google’s stand on net neutrality, the arguments of those who oppose net neutrality and go from there. But first –
What Is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is, at it’s core, the idea that the Internet is a mandatory service and that complete equality is required in the way packets are treated as they flow across it. The idea that the Telco’s should have the ability to charge more for preferential treatment of certain packages (say … YouTube videos if Google slipped them a few extra bucks) violates this idea. Well who can argue that? Don’t I have the same rights to the Internet as everyone else?
The problem arises in that the Telco’s need to pay for the infrastructure and access to that network. They argue (and let’s remember – we’re all capitalists here) that they have the right to monetize their services in a way that maximized profits. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has opposed Net Neutrality legislation noting that there are consumer protection laws in place that provide the protection in productive ways and that bloating the law books with more jargon isn’t going to make the issue simpler, or solve any problems that aren’t being solved with current legislation as has been witnessed many times – including a decision again Comcast when they tried to restrict access to torrents on their network and were order to stop doing so. Basically – Net Neutrality is protected even for a file type that is used primarily for exchanging illegal material (yes torrents are used for legitimate purposes but …)
I wrote a lengthy article a couple years ago at https://www.beanstalkim.com/articles/news/net-neutrality.htm that explains the basics well and those haven’t changed). So what has?
Initially there were two camps, those who opposed net neutrality and those who supported it. The line was drawn basically based on profit like so:
Against Legislation – the “greedy” Telcos who just want to make a buck.
For Legislation – a bunch of people who stand to profit from it such as Google, Microsoft and others who claim that this will hinder innovation and growth in the technology industry. To ask them – it has nothing to do with the fact that it would cost them more.
In 2007 Google as on record as saying:
“The nation’s spectrum airwaves are not the birthright of any one company. They are a unique and valuable public resource that belong to all Americans. The FCC’s auction rules are designed to allow U.S. consumers — for the first time — to use their handsets with any network they desire, and download and use the lawful software applications of their choice.”
At the time they were bashing Verizon from taking the stand that the decision by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), “that would require the eventual winner of the spectrum to offer open devices and applications.” claiming such a decision was, “arbitrary and capricious, unsupported by substantial evidence and otherwise contrary to law.” You can read more about this on Google’s Policy Blog here.
So Here We Are 3 Years Later …
So here we stand 3 years later and Google and Verizon are in bed together working out a deal to prioritize some traffic over others, basically pulling a reference from George Orwell’s Animal Farm that, “some animals are more equal than others.” They use the example of medical applications but left the door open to gaming, 3D, entertainment, and more. I’m sure none of us would have a problem with a heart monitor connected to a doctor’s office over the Internet getting a priority over an MSN chat but we all know that’s not where this is going or it wouldn’t even be a debate.
Now on the table is that mobile devices should be included in the list of exempt platforms and services. Alrighty – now we’re getting warmed up. So they’re OK with the standard old Internet getting Net Neutrality imposed (except for special applications and services as yet to be defined of course)…but mobile, the up-and-comer and largely increasing area of bandwidth consumption and connectivity – that area should be excluded from the legislation? Here’s where you lost me but not because I think it’s wrong to give preferential treatment but because I don’t like when people are trying to be sly.
Here’s the thing … “not all animals are equal”. I can’t tell Google that all the can change for a PPC click is $0.40 just to make sure that everyone can afford it. It’s just not that kind of a world (and I would argue further that it shouldn’t be).
What They Should Have Done …
Verizon has done exactly what they should have. The way the message was delivered puts any backlash squarely on Google. I have no advice for them, masterfully executed.
Google should have come forward and said:
“The world has changed in 3 years and we have a lot of great ideas about the direction of mobile that’s going to require that Net Neutrality legislation doesn’t apply. We need to be able to pay more for preferential bandwidth to insure that we can provide you with the services we know you’ll love at a price you’ll enjoy even more. We want to pay extra so you don’t have to.
We would have called them on going against the policies of earlier but really – there would have been a lot less rumors and conjecture about what was going on. They should have stood up for their actions, admitted they were contrary to their former statements and basically outlined what we all know, the Internet world moves fast and the rules have changed.
Sometimes it’s refreshing to just hear a spade called a spade. I don’t believe that Google has any huge secret plans to bring down the Internet – I think they just want to be more equal. At the end of the day I don’t even disagree with their right to be more equal – they just should have come out and said so. They should have stood up for themselves.
And Now For Some Fun…
And now that you’ve made it to the end of a post on Net Neutrality here’s a video done by “Ask A Ninja” on net Neutrality: