Are alarms over a Google-Verizon Net Neutrality deal overblown?

Are alarms over a Google-Verizon Net Neutrality deal overblown?

Summary: A rumor that Google and Verizon have reached an agreement on how to handle Web traffic, coming up with their own solution to the long-running Net Neutrality debate, immediately sent public interest groups into a tailspin.

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Reports that Google and Verizon have reached an agreement on how to handle Web traffic, coming up with their own solution to the long-running Net Neutrality debate, immediately sent public interest groups into a tailspin.

How can two big companies like Google and Verizon, with their own financial interests at stake, be trusted to come up with a framework for the Internet that will protect the public interests? The two companies, alongside many others large players with interests at stake, are participating in talks with the FCC about how to shape a broadband policy.

Get used to it. Last week at the Supernova conference in Philadelphia, Comcast's David Cohen, executive vice president of broadband, said the ecosystem of Internet players is in more agreement over regulation than any other time. The one common theme: These Internet giants are worried about the law of unintended consequences. “The unintended consequence of regulation could  result in actions that retard investment and innovation,” he said. The fix is to handle these broadband policy issues on their own and collaborate with the FCC instead of being dictated to.

Yesterday, Bloomberg reported that Google and Verizon had reached their own agreement, one that blocks Verizon from "selectively slowing Internet content that travels over its wires" but doesn't apply to Internet use over mobile phones. Bloomberg cited two unnamed people briefed by the companies and neither Google nor Verizon confirmed the report.

The news is reportedly set to be announced on Friday but that didn't stop public interest groups from crying foul right away. Josh Silver, President and CEO of Free Press, issued a statement that read, in part that "such abuse of the open Internet would put to final rest the Google mandate to ‘do no evil.' " Public Knowledge President Gigi B. Sohn said the agreement should be considered "meaningless." As a legal agreement, she said, it is not binding and as an agreement of principle, "it should not be taken as a template or basis for Congressional action."

Clearly, regulatory policy would trump any such agreement between two companies but allow me to offer a few points to ponder:

  • Should Google and Verizon participate in Washington's debate over Broadband policy? Some of the public interest groups have called for the FCC to abandon talks with the large companies with business interests at stake. That's ridiculous. The FCC should continue to talk to as many players involved, especially the companies that will be investing in and innovating the technology that will drive broadband adoption and advancement.
  • Can we really trust the government to get it right? Back in December 2008, President Obama appeared on a YouTube video to declare that "It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption" and called for the adoption of a National Broadband Plan. Sure, there have been some obstacles since then - notably, Comcast's victory in a suit that challenged FCC authority over it. If Washington wants to get it right, isn't it better to have those folks sitting on your side of the table, instead of on the other side, with their lawyers?
  • Remember, the FCC doesn't have to adopt or event consider the Google-Verizon deal as it shapes policy. What Washington eventually gets around to deciding, both Google and Verizon will have to comply with.
  • In the meantime, what's so bad about the two companies coming to an agreement? Until there's policy in place, it gives each of them an understanding of what they can and cannot do. Isn't that better than trying to guess what Washington will decide. And if the companies use the agreement to get one over on consumers, those same consumer interest groups will surely be watching, red flags ready to be thrown.

Also see: FCC offers new broadband plan; avoids all-or-nothing approach

Topics: CXO, Broadband, Browser, Google, Government, Government US, Networking, IT Employment, Verizon

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20 comments
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  • RE: Are alarms over a Google-Verizon Net Neutrality deal overblown?

    I think it's a step in the right direction that these guys have realized that they are going to have to make concessions. As to whether or not the concessions that they are purportedly making are enough, we shall see. Just from what little I've read, IMHO they're not and if they don't give some more ground, it's going to be high noon in regulation town.
    willyd357
    • RE: Are alarms over a Google-Verizon Net Neutrality deal overblown?

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      xobcooltorn
  • RE: Are alarms over a Google-Verizon Net Neutrality deal overblown?

    No, they're not. These kinds of deals will inevitably destroy equal access to Internet content and force governments to step in to regulate. It's the tech equivalent of a small gang planning to blockade the downtown business district and charge fees for admission. Is there any doubt that the cops (here the FCC and other national telecom regulators) won't eventually respond? It's a provocation that won't serve the interests of the public or the parties' shareholders.
    eldapo
    • RE: Are alarms over a Google-Verizon Net Neutrality deal overblown?

      @eldapo That's exactly what it is and a fitting description!
      blueskip
  • Common carriers

    All network service providers are common carriers if they carry public traffic. Like roads, bridges, airlines, sewers, water mains, power poles, taxis, you name it, they are all infrastructure. They cannot discriminate against traffic. Verizon, Comcast, Qwest *ugh!*, they are all common carriers. When they plug their holes and only carry their own content for their own subscribers with only private content that does not go into or out of their private networks, then, and only then, can they be free of regulation. And that if they're lucky.<br><br>This is not just about private businesses making good decisions about how to invest their money. This is about private businesses becoming a link in a public network, which creates a compelling public interest for regulation.<br><br>This agreement, to the extent that it exists, creates a very bad precedent.
    epitax
  • Deal may be overblown, but conclusions are wrong.

    Get used to it? Sounds a lot like "lay back and enjoy it" from earlier times.

    The blog author appears to be completely captured by industry.

    The "companies that will be investing in and innovating the technology that will drive broadband adoption and advancement" have done a miserable job thus far. Power boost (as Cox calls it)? Come on. That's innovation in the service of marketing.

    Can we trust the government to get it right? Well, we can trust the companies to do what's in their own best interest. Only the government would even think about protecting the public's interest. By discarding the government role with that all-too-common red herring you guarantee that the public interest is the least consideration.




    :)
    none none
  • Leave us alone

    We've been lucky not to have government protection for anything other than criminal abuses on the Internet. The government, mostly, has left the Internet alone. That has caused the Net to grow and flourish and provide ever-increasing features and services in a very competitive environment. Once the government gets a toehold, that will slow down. And as the government interventions produce slowdowns in growth, services, quality and profitability, freedom and will be blamed and the government will take more of that freedom. That's what has happened with our economy, and that's what will happen with the Internet, which is the most vibrant part of our economy. Right now those who would control us have convinced millions of Americans that capitalism is to blame for our economic woes. Capitalism is the only truly free economic model. Eliminate it, and we will not work for rewards, delight, creativity, or satisfaction, but for the government at the point of a gun. The Internet represent our last vestige of pure capitalism unfettered by government control. We have already plenty of controls on big corporations. The best one is that big companies face re-election every day. If they don't do what customers want, they are soon voted out of business with our dollars. We have monopoly laws, we have FCC rules, we have literally tens of thousands of regulations. They are so numerous that many are unknown to regulators who could not possible be aware of all of them. Let's do no more harm. Please.
    roger that
    • Really?

      @roger that The way I see it Verizon/Comcast are a local monopoly in my area and government does nothing about it.
      MSFTWorshipper
    • RE: Are alarms over a Google-Verizon Net Neutrality deal overblown?

      @roger that You need your head examined. Ok let's do it your way and return to the telephone company being the only entity you can get a phone from for $200 and a long distance call costing $2.00 per minute in some cases.
      blueskip
      • RE: Are alarms over a Google-Verizon Net Neutrality deal overblown?

        @blueskip you don't want to return to that form of doing business's you just want to give the government the right to take over the net radio,TV and every other form of speech there is and all the commerce. can you say u.s.s.a.
        hwwgandolf@...
  • fine print lacking

    Obviously it would be helpful to read the actual agreement before making such grandiose statements for OR against it.

    On the surface it appears that Google has done one good thing, get one carrier to agree that they won't selectively slow traffic over their national networks. My reading is that it spplies to all Internet traffic, not just Google's.

    I think it's logical to expect wireless carriers to want to be able to control bandwidth to portable devices due to the limited spectrum. If the Google-Verizon agreement says, "throttle wireless traffic, regardless of source," it's in my opinion a reasonable agreement.

    You can debate separately the value of Google acting as lead negotiator on behalf of net-neutrality proponents. So far I'm ok with it - but let's see the fine print.
    GDF
  • Get used to it?

    I don't think so! We should NOT get used to it.
    The outcry may be overblown but the conclusion the author draws - "Get used to it" - are wrong! Neither Google nor Verizon have the common good in mind. Let's spin this a little further: After Verizon, Google makes deals with AT&T, Comcast and a few other ISPs. That would be the end of any cloud computing besides for Google Apps.
    Next they descide what news/blog - sites get preferred treatment. Then ... Use your imagination! Whatever bad you can imagine, it will end up worse.
    Juergen Hartl
    • RE: Are alarms over a Google-Verizon Net Neutrality deal overblown?

      @Juergen Hartl, et al. Once again folks, wait to see the details. I believe what you will find is that the agreement Google has negotiated with Verizon is about all Internet traffic, not just Google's. Google has been trying to play the role of a neutral third party at this particular table. We all know they're not, especially now that they own high-bandwidth content source Youtube, but they have been able on a number of occasions to act as an advocate for everyone when it also helps them.
      GDF
  • RE: Are alarms over a Google-Verizon Net Neutrality deal overblown?

    Should we be worried about backroom deals between plutocrats and bureaucrats? Only when our bills go up, when we find out that we are prevented from accessing free content that "competes" with the provider's paid content, or when we get fed up with being monitored, manipulated, and mistreated by our "service" providers.

    That would be about now.
    terry flores
  • Do no evil, huh?

    There is simpy no way to justify shaping internet traffic based on profit. The whole point of the web is to provide information and global communications on a level playing field.

    You want to know what's wrong with our country? This is a prime example - corporations that leverage government incompetence and corruption to wipe out fair competition and free markets, gain a monopoly, and use the profits to make it legal.

    This is a bad thing for the citizens, and anyone saying otherwise is either a fool or has something to gain from this.
    crazydanr@...
    • RE: Are alarms over a Google-Verizon Net Neutrality deal overblown?

      @crazydanr@... It's "do no evil" to Google's bottom line. Didn't you know that?
      MSFTWorshipper
  • "Can we really trust the government to get it right?" NO

    This just doesn't involve money for today, it represents a great deal about the future path our media, information, education, entertainment and productivity will follow and I would have to say the odds of anyone getting it right the first time out of the blocks, so to speak, is nil. Its a pretty damn important thing for the public to keep their eyes on.
    Cayble
    • RE: Are alarms over a Google-Verizon Net Neutrality deal overblown?

      @Cayble Yeah you're right. I suppose we need to turn back the clock to before Reagan dismantled Ma Bell. $200 dollar phone bills for long distance calls 20 miles away and such should be the norm after all. Government never helped anything by regulation. I mean who needs OSHA to protect me? BP will do fine without THEM interfering. Coal mines too for that matter. Who needs this stuff? Business has my best interest at heart, why do I need the government? After all without government there wouldn't even be labor unions because we would have needed them! They would have paid us all a fair wage of $1.50 per day of 18 hours of labor. And those interfering labor laws! Why on earth would anyone only be able to work 40 hours before getting overtime??? A man can work 110-120 hours a week without being too exhausted. Why would he need overtime for anything under that?
      blueskip
  • RE: Are alarms over a Google-Verizon Net Neutrality deal overblown?

    First of all, all these gossips are no more than gossips at this time. There is a reason to believe that The New York Times and Bloomberg have their own motives to screw information in order to harm Google. Do you remember that crazy article in NYT telling that government should regulate Google Search? Here's an excellent parody by Search Engine Land http://goo.gl/0ilC.

    Let me repeat what Fran?ois Beaufort said here http://goo.gl/KoUs,
    "Medias think they have a certain control on their audience, Medias' Owners think they control what's published and try to make everybody think that so, they control opinion/market. And that is sadly not totally untrue.
    So they have power facing politics & sellers.
    But in the same time, they see internet's freedom heating their publishers' privileges more every day. That's why they hate it so much and would like to see it controlled."
    vkelman@...
  • There are to many devils to choose from...

    There really aren't any really good choices in this whole net neutrality mess.
    1. I think a great solution would be to have at least 10 internet providers in every single micro market. This competition would ensure a good service at a fair price. This is NOT the reality of today in the U.S.A.

    2. What we really have is either a monopoly or in some rare markets a very small oligarchy which limits consumer choice and leads to monopolistic abuse of the consumers. For example in my home town you can get internet access from Verizon or Time Warner. That's it. The pricing and service is so close you are just picking a brand name and logo. They don't really compete with each other and innovation has stopped. Prices are fixed and very high.

    3. I would prefer a free market solution but I don't get to vote or control an economic monopoly or oligarchy so in this case government regulation is the lesser of the evils. At least I can put political pressure on the government. With an economic monopoly or oligarchy your choices are to do with out or pay up. Sometimes it is even illegal to do with out so your are forced to pay up. Some towns have zoning laws where you can't have a residence with out electrical service for example. If you can't pay for the service you are fined and eventually driven out of your home. Sometimes you can win a court case but it is expensive. I understand as a society we aren't quite that far with Internet service but it could get that bad eventually.
    mr1972