Google, Verizon are right to push out the wireless net neutrality talk

Google, Verizon are right to push out the wireless net neutrality talk

Summary: As with all things having to do with net neutrality the debate went from zero to way overblown and emotional as soon as Google and Verizon posted their proposal. Biggest issue: The argument that the wireless industry is too immature for net neutrality mandates.

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As with all things having to do with net neutrality the debate went from zero to way overblown and emotional as soon as Google and Verizon posted a proposal on where they stand. The source of the entire hubbub---the idea that wireless access should have different rules for now---seems to reflect the reality that mobile networks aren't even built out yet.

But reality isn't going to stop anyone from screaming---a lot.

The Google-Verizon compromise raised quite a ruckus. The big issue for some folks---there's actually compromise. You can twirl around in a circle and hit someone saying Google sold out. And of course, the telecom carriers are always portrayed as evil. However, the Google-Verizon proposal has a bevy of items that make sense on the wireline front. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a nice analysis of the nuances here and at least tries to cut through the clutter.

Overall, the Google-Verizon missive isn't all that jarring---until you get to the wireless part of the net neutrality issue. Then the technology peanut gallery goes nuclear. Is Google really "carrier-humping net neutrality surrender monkey"?

Here's the passage in the Google-Verizon proposal that has many folks freaked out:

We both recognize that wireless broadband is different from the traditional wireline world, in part because the mobile marketplace is more competitive and changing rapidly. In recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace, under this proposal we would not now apply most of the wireline principles to wireless, except for the transparency requirement. In addition, the Government Accountability Office would be required to report to Congress annually on developments in the wireless broadband marketplace, and whether or not current policies are working to protect consumers.

In other words, the core concepts of net neutrality---consumers have open choice and content won't be discriminated against on networks---that apply for wired access shouldn't be lording over the wireless industry yet. Notice Google and Verizon didn't say that net neutrality will NEVER apply to the wireless industry. Just not now. The two companies decided that it's best to kick the issue down the road.

Why would the companies put off wireless net neutrality? Here are a few reasons:

  • Wireless networks aren't built out and aren't even close to reaching parity with wireline access. Let Verizon, AT&T and the rest of the gang install 4G LTE networks before you start yapping about whether you can have video streaming and other bandwidth hogging downloads at the expense of my calls. Regulating wireless access at this point in time would be like the FCC mandating net neutrality back in the dial-up access days. It's silly since many of the things you do on wireline networks you simply can't in the wireless world---at least not without some pain.
  • Wireless networks have spectrum issues. Wireline networks have the throughput to have a discussion about something like BitTorrent can ride shotgun with a PowerPoint presentation. Simply put, the pipes are big enough. Wireless networks are constrained due to spectrum. You have to manage a network with limited resources. That fact isn't going to change for the foreseeable future.
  • The wireless market is immature and the law of unintended consequences is magnified in nascent areas. The EFF notes that the big issue with net neutrality is that there's a "substantial danger that the regulators will cause more harm than good for the Internet." Just imagine how bad Washington could screw up the already partly dysfunctional wireless industry.

Perhaps Google and Verizon could have avoided the firestorm over wireless neutrality if they proposed some sort of timeline. For instance, FCC could be tasked to evaluate wireless net neutrality every two years or take a phased approach to implementing the concepts. Instead, Google and Verizon proposed an annual GAO report.

Bottom line: Google and Verizon made a logical proposal to put off net neutrality on the wireless front. Some would call that a sell-out move. I'd call it a reflection of network realities.

Topics: Networking, Google, Mobility, Verizon, Wi-Fi

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35 comments
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  • Only Neutrality of Wireless

    The only Neutrality that I think should be regulated for wireless should be that the use of VOIP should not be blocked from wireless data plans. For example, as far as I know, VOIP is currently just about blocked by packet filtering on all major carriers.

    It should be clear and transparent when buying a 1GB or 10GB wireless data package, that this bandwidth should be usable for anything the user wants. But especially the use of VOIP should not be down-prioritized and blocked.

    In fact, I think it should be possible for users to purchase high quality bandwidth for their VOIP usage specifically so that the quality is at least as good as normal voice usage.
    charbax@...
  • RE: Google, Verizon are right to push out the wireless net neutrality talk

    Good grief . talk about fiddling while Rome is burning! The demand for bandwidth is growing faster than the bandwidth. Which means that we are going to hit an impasse, where the greedy abuse the system at the expense of others. If people want to load their Netflix, Ipod movies, PRON, backup their computers etc. and be heavy users - then pay more. Last I looked, we live in a pay-as-you-go country not a communistic society!
    gboddy@...
    • RE: Google, Verizon are right to push out the wireless net neutrality talk

      @gboddy@... "communistic society"

      STOP with the mindless knee jerk sloganeering !!!
      .... and I suppose the big bad communistic government is behind that oppressive, we've all got to drive on the right side of the road dictatorship thingy.

      Government bad corporations good, it is just that simple for you is it ???
      raycote
      • RE: Google, Verizon are right to push out the wireless net neutrality talk

        @raycote: I think you missed his point. So you work hard (assuming) and you earn an income and strive to better your life and can now obtain some nice things in life. While Schmoo over here doesn't do crap, but because the sorry butt administration we have now feels sorry for the individual (who doesn't do anything to help himself) so they are going to give him the same level of living that you have and just worked hard to obtain and pay your taxes because for things like infrastructure a grade-a military basic needs, it's the proper and right thing to do. Seeing the above - and it happens all over the place - how hard you going to work in the future to better yourself and family knowing - hey I can sit on butt to and get the same thing. Oops - there went your tax base...and believe me the scenario feeds on itself like a nasty recession. Just ask Europe who is in a bigger mess than we are at this point in some areas...more going out in free services than coming in.
        ItsTheBottomLine
      • RE: Google, Verizon are right to push out the wireless net neutrality talk

        @ItsTheBottomLine

        [i]While Schmoo over here doesn't do crap, but because the sorry butt administration we have now feels sorry for the individual (who doesn't do anything to help himself) so they are going to give him the same level of living that you have...[/i]

        What are you referring to? Unemployment insurance? Welfare? Food stamps?

        Do you really believe that people on those or any public assistance (though I would not classify unemployment insurance as assistance) have the same standard of living as a successful working person?



        :)
        none none
    • No way....

      @gboddy If I pay for service at XX speed, then I should get my service at the speed I paid for, regardless of the type of data I am accessing.

      Once a multi-tiered system is implemented, only those who can pay the much higher rates will have have access, and the rest of the net will be left behind. Deals will be made that if you pay XXX dollars for this service, you can get it faster. Each service will start charging for access which has already been paid when you purchased your connection in the first place!

      This will be the death of the internet unless all data is treated the same.
      linux for me
      • RE: Google, Verizon are right to push out the wireless net neutrality talk

        @linux for me "Once a multi-tiered system is implemented, only those who can pay the much higher rates will have have access,..." what are you talking about that is in place now, unless I'm not understanding. You want unlimited - you pay for it, you want 30 mb download speed - you pay for it. My in-laws cannot pay for it so they don't have it...I'm not sure how that is my problem. I don't have the money to pay for it - guess what I don't have it either. Seems fair to me.
        ItsTheBottomLine
    • RE: Google, Verizon are right to push out the wireless net neutrality talk

      @gboddy@... While at 1st blush I agree with this but I will have to think about it some more. However, knee jerk reaction is yes if you want to download movies...pay for it, if you don't then get your big rear-end in the car and go to Blockbuster. If I want to backup to some Internet based backup site that will probably be bankrupt in 5 years with my data, then yes I have to pay for it, otherwise burn a DVD/CD series and be happy with it, if all you need is to download emails and stay connected with the outsider, then dial-up will work for even facebook and email. Right now if I want a 30Mb connection for high-speed at home, I'm going to have to pay for it. We seem to be too concerned with giving away and making things equal for everyone in ALL areas of society (not talking rights or jobs, etc.), even life itself doesn't work that way, and trying to reach that fictional "Utopia" from Star Trek has historically failed, some people just don't seem to see that. Just because John Q. has something I don't have doesn't mean it's not fair, it means he probably worked his butt off and acheived the means to get that or desire, that's called life and what makes us work harder.
      ItsTheBottomLine
    • I agree to a point

      @gboddy@... only demand is not growing faster that available bandwidth. It's just not that simple. We have three pc's and an Xbox and we hardly ever slow down due to bandwidth issues. Granted I have Fios, but still, that says nothing about the back-end. There is lots of fiber out there (probably a lot not even lit).

      But I full agree that most of this talk is just so much Marxist-lite.
      stano360
  • RE: Google, Verizon are right to push out the wireless net neutrality talk

    i don't want the government controlling what content is 'prioritized' on mobile networks any more than I want large companies doing the same thing. that is the antithesis of the internet. i have to disagree that the mobile industry won't be able to keep up with bandwidth demands. in the business, that's what we call a problem you WANT to have. during times of record profits for telco's, they need to keep investing in their infrastructure which has already fallen behind the infrastructure of many other countries. 'fixing' the issue by prioritizing data that they choose (ie: whichever content providers have the deepest pockets) and charging the end user a premium for the prioritized service is against the spirit and innovation of the internet that helped create companies like...facebook, twitter...google. other start up companies need the same opportunity on an open playing field to provide their content on both wireless / wired networks. the internet's abuzz for good reason.
    digitalogic
    • RE: Google, Verizon are right to push out the wireless net neutrality talk

      @digitalogic
      The government shouldn't control or prioritize content, but they should make it illegal for internet providers to do so.
      RedVeg
      • RE: Google, Verizon are right to push out the wireless net neutrality talk

        @RedVeg So basically what you two are saying is that an internet provider who is purchasing their bandwidth from a company like Quest, or Microsoft shouldn't be allowed to limit a person's bandwidth?

        So lets say you decide you want to start an internet company and end up purchasing 150mbps fiber from one of these companies. Great! Now for some customers, we'll offer them 10mbps connection speeds and unlimited data because I don't believe in priority or limitations. Your first 50 customers are pretty excited but now look, you've got a few people who are on welfare and watch TV over their internet all day. Wow these 3 or 4 people are using 30-40mbps of your 150mbps fiber.. They're on a cell tower that can only handle 40 mbps of traffic, and are backhauled to another tower than can handle 80, then finally get to your fiber cable. Everyone on their tower other than those two (since you don't have priority set up) now isn't getting for the internet they paid for. There's the scenario for you on a small scale.
        JODell22
  • What I worry about is vendor lock in.

    What I would like to see is some competition and innovation on the Internet infrastructure.

    I honestly believe that net neutrality would be a non-issue if it didn't seem so monopolistic. I don't believe that if a very few telcos get a lock on a tiered wireless Internet, it will ever be improved to point where an data agnostic approach will make sense. Basically with out a wide range of competition, I don't trust Verizon to build a better Internet. Once they get a lock on a tiered service plan, it will take a huge consumer outcry (which probably won't happen) or an act of Congress to get anything that would make sense to the consumers.

    So for me, I want to avoid the local monopolies that I have personally experienced in cable company service. I have lived in towns where there is only one cable service and it was expensive and had very poor customer service. If there had been 5 more companies all competing for my dollars, I would bet the prices would come down and the services would be better over all.

    With wireless it is some what the same. If there were 10 telcos all trying to compete, I would trust that the free market forces would deliver a good service at a fair price. But just 3, may be 4 companies who basically seem to have carved the market up and seem to be content with their share of it, won't be innovating any time soon.

    So for me, net neutrality would be a non-issue if there were a large number of competitors involved but it looks more like an oligarchy so I don't really trust it.
    mr1972
    • You misunderstand

      @mr1972 There are a lot of players on the back end, not just the Baby Bells, there is no monopoly on the fiber. The issue of net neutrality is not on individual customers, it's small telcos.

      Net neutrality removes the ability of a company to control the profits from its investment. If Net neutrality was shoved down Verizon's throat do you think they would have built FIOS? Of course not.
      stano360
  • RE: Google, Verizon are right to push out the wireless net neutrality talk

    The point that's missing here is that wireless networks are different in another fundamental way: operators can never know how many people using what devices and applications will be hitting a certain part of the network at any given time. With wired networks you know where your users are and what their historical patterns are. With wireless networks thousands of people could suddenly show up somewhere there are usually only a handful. That has two implications:
    1. you have to have flexibility to deal with situations as they occur, because you can't always plan ahead
    2. you can't guarantee any kind of throughput to anyone anywhere, because a sudden influx of usage would degrade performance for everyone.
    jandaw
  • RE: Google, Verizon are right to push out the wireless net neutrality talk

    Physics places limits on the electro magnetic spectrum available to society, making it an extremely precious public owned resource. Those granted control over this scare public resource will need to respect their responsibility to meet the public good. It is the citizens who ultimately own and license this precious spectrum. If Verizon does not like the social limits placed on wireless carriers let them innovate by researching how to create their own new wireless broadcast spectrum. Right, I thought so ..................
    raycote
    • RE: Google, Verizon are right to push out the wireless net neutrality talk

      @raycote

      Just because something exists in the physical reality does not make it a publicly owned resource. That is a fallacious argument. The citizens have no control over this physical spectrum UNLESS a capability to interact with it is provided - what some might call a service, and unless I'm mistaken the average person does not have a global infrastructure that allows the rapid transmission of data from any point to any point connected to their individually operated magic network machine. Of course then they would need special communication boxes to connect to their magic network. That capability would be provided by the greedy capitalists who bothered to research, develop and build the devices that then connect to the provided service of an inter-operating-network those nasty ISPs bothered to research, develop and build. You could of course just not buy a phone (hah! take that capitalist inventor swine!) or you could buy one and just not connect it to an ISP (hah! take that greedy ISPs)... but then you would have an expensive piece of plastic that you have zero comprehension of what to do with - beyond a paper weight. If users do not like the legal limits placed on them as consumers by wireless carriers let them innovate by researching how to create their own wireless broadband network. Right, i thought so...........
      slenGypsum
      • RE: Google, Verizon are right to push out the wireless net neutrality talk

        @slenGypsum

        [i]If users do not like the legal limits placed on them as consumers by wireless carriers...[/i]

        Since when do wireless carriers decide what's legal and what's not? That's society's role through representative government, is it not?

        The problem is that our representative government is captured by wireless carriers among others. It's discouraging there are people who accept that corporations can make the laws to advantage themselves and disadvantage consumers.





        :)
        none none
    • Bingo!

      [i]Those granted control over this scare public resource will need to respect their responsibility to meet the public good.[/i]

      The thing is that the wireless operators are public corporations that need to respond to the demands of Wall Street. They are conflicted between public good and shareholder good. It's a situation that requires the government to protect the public interest.

      But these blogs from the corporate peanut gallery always always are premised on the unsupported notion that government can't do anything right, as in, "Just imagine how bad Washington could screw up..." right here in this one.

      Always consider the source. In the case of these blogs the source is CBS.

      Sure, people make mistakes, including people who work in public service. But to attempt to take regulators out of the equation, as the totality of ZDNet blogging on the Google/Verizon proposal clearly does, is to take the owners of the spectrum out of the equation and give it all over to the for-profit companies.

      Corporations are not evil any more than a man-eating shark is evil. They just do what they do; they don't mean anything by it. But if 400 man-eating sharks took up residence in Chesapeake Bay we would expect someone to do something about it, and that someone would be "the government." What we would *not* do is dismiss a government solution because the government can't be trusted.

      Why do ZDNet bloggers do it?





      :)
      none none
      • Huh?

        @none none Most of these blogs are a constant stream of fascist blather, not pro-corporation. That is the exception not the rule.

        Being owned by CBS, the Joseph Goebbels of the Obama administration (well, ok, they fight it out with NBC and CNN), that doesn't help your argument.
        stano360