The real Google-Verizon Net neutrality story

The real Google-Verizon Net neutrality story

Summary: There has been an incredible amount of mud-slinging and hand-wringing over a perceived back office deal by Google and Verizon, both of whom, if you listen to most reports, are hell-bent on destroying the Internet for their own gains. Thanks for that, New York Times.

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There has been an incredible amount of mud-slinging and hand-wringing over a perceived back office deal by Google and Verizon, both of whom, if you listen to most reports, are hell-bent on destroying the Internet for their own gains. Thanks for that, New York Times. Google and Verizon, however, are finally speaking out on the issue with more than adamant denials of the Times' piece and the related media frenzy.

ZDNet's Sam Diaz reported this afternoon on a post on Google's public policy blog today where Alan Davidson, Google director of public policy and Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president of public affairs, policy, and communications described the real aim of their talks. In fact, as Sam noted, they're going farther than merely discussing. The two companies actually proposed a legislative framework to ensure ongoing openness while ensuring optimal use of limited broadband resources.

According to the blog post describing the framework,

...in addition to these existing principles there should be a new, enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices. This means that for the first time, wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition...this new nondiscrimination principle includes a presumption against prioritization of Internet traffic - including paid prioritization. So, in addition to not blocking or degrading of Internet content and applications, wireline broadband providers also could not favor particular Internet traffic over other traffic.

Sounds kind of like the opposite of what MoveOn.org was circulating in their misinformed propaganda this weekend, doesn't it? An email asking people to sign a petition to keep Google from doing anything untoward with their online power contained the following passage:

But today's news stories report that under the new deal, Verizon could be allowed to give some sites preferential treatment. Even more ominously, it appears that Verizon would have free rein to discriminate on the mobile Internet (smartphones, cell phones, etc). Since that's where most people will access the Net going forward, this would essentially spell the end of Net Neutrality.

Nice. Obviously, both Google and Verizon have extraordinarily vested interests in making sure that the Internet, as a commerce and communications platform, works favorably for them and their customers. However, as eWeek's Wayne Rash points out, Net neutrality and smart traffic shaping don't have to be mutually exclusive:

In either case [voice or video over the Internet], reliable delivery is important for these services to be usable. Google's belief, according to a statement made by CEO Eric Schmidt during an impromptu news conference on Aug. 4, is that network providers should be able to differentiate service types so that voice traffic gets delivered intact, for example, but not prioritize one provider's voice or video over another's.

Next: Google and Verizon need a neutral net »

Today's news further emphasizes (no matter how many grains of salt with which you choose to take a joint Google/Verizon blog post and legislation proposal) that Google and Verizon both stand to benefit far more from an open Internet with significant investments in broadband infrastructure to promote development than Draconian (or conspiratorial) traffic controls.

Here's is perhaps the best quote from the blog post:

Fifth, we want the broadband infrastructure to be a platform for innovation. Therefore, our proposal would allow broadband providers to offer additional, differentiated online services, in addition to the Internet access and video services (such as Verizon's FIOS TV) offered today. This means that broadband providers can work with other players to develop new services. It is too soon to predict how these new services will develop, but examples might include health care monitoring, the smart grid, advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options.

Of course they want it to be a platform for innovation! That's how Google makes its billions and how Verizon consistently distinguishes itself from its competitors. This isn't a bad thing. Platforms for innovation mean jobs, folks. Investments in infrastructure? More jobs. Growing an open and neutral Internet? More jobs.

Google should most certainly be advocating for this and so should we. All of us involved in running networks pay attention to the types of traffic flying about on our lines. We wouldn't be very good network admins if we didn't ensure that traffic that needs to get through fast gets through fast and traffic that can tolerate some latency tolerates a bit of latency when it needs to. I'm sure my mom would be thrilled if her miserable ISP would prioritize Skype traffic over her neighbor's streaming porn so she can actually have both sound and video when she's watching her granddaughter from across the country. That would hardly mean the end of free and open access. It would simply make the Internet more useful as a communications platform for both consumers and the enterprise.

Let's face it: our Internet traffic is growing a heck of a lot faster than our infrastructure here in the States. At some point, something has to give to ensure that the Net doesn't end up as one big useless traffic jam. If a bit of bandwidth shaping that is vendor-neutral but traffic-specific can ensure that we make the best use of relatively scarce broadband resources, then lobby away, guys.

Topics: Verizon, Banking, Enterprise Software, Google

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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11 comments
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  • RE: The real Google-Verizon Net neutrality story

    ?Despite Google and Verizon?s claims to support an open Internet, the two page policy proposal removes any hope of moving forward with the open Internet as we know it. Specifically, five sentences would offer corporations the ability to do almost anything they would like. Anything ranges from throttling traffic to blocking websites to prioritizing some content over other content.

    Read More about Five Sentences from Google/Verizon that Could Change the Net Forever http://bit.ly/bn1C3e?
    mlschafer7
  • Steve Jobs was right to get Eric Schmidt off the Apple board

    and put Bing search on the iPhone.

    Did Jobs know something we didn't... maybe.

    I used to love Google, slowly gone out of favor these past several months. Today changed my default search in all browsers.
    systemx
  • Wireline? What about wireless?

    Let's talk about what Google/Verizon pointedly left out. The repeated use of the term "wireline" without mentioning wireless stinks.

    However, if Dawson says it's OK and that there's nothing to see here, that's good enough for me. Let's stop wasting time on this non-issue and get back to what matters: Bashing Apple.
    Marcos El Malo
    • 'wireline' vs. wireless

      @Marcos El Malo

      My interpretation is that the discussion is between Verizon (the landline majority shareholder of Verizon Wireless) and Google discussing traffic on the fiber-based internet backbone (companies such as Verizon, Yahoo, Level 3, Comcast, i.e. content providers and fiber/wired network owners and service providers). As such, the behavior of wireless providers (T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless etc) would not be affected by this framework.
      chipbeef
  • Everyone, including Google fans, should be uncomfortable

    When a large corporation, [i]any[/i] large corporation, starts saying that the government shouldn't regulate them. if there's anything we've learned over the last two years is that when big money is on the line, big business isn't above breaking the rules and putting the larger economy at risk. A lot of people hate/fear/distrust "the government", but I trust the FCC a lot more than Verizon Wireless or Google. I get to vote for the ultimate head of the FCC, the President, and for it's oversight, Congress, but not the head or oversight of corporations.
    matthew_maurice
    • RE: The real Google-Verizon Net neutrality story

      @matthew_maurice You say "... if there's anything we've learned over the last two years is that when big money is on the line, big business isn't above breaking the rules and putting the larger economy at risk." The fact of the matter is that the current economic situation is the result of government regulation (and in some cases, deregulation) that began over 30 years ago. In the late 1970s, Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act which essentially forced banks to make home mortgages to individuals who could not afford them under the traditional guidelines (20% down, credit score of 600-700). We now refer to these loans as "sub-prime" mortgages. In the mid-90s, Congress reinforced the Community Reinvestment Act. Most of these loans were Adjustable Rate Mortgages which a few years ago came due for rate adjustment. While many were able to afford the low entry interest rates that they received, they could not afford the new higher rates after adjustment. So they had one of two choices: either stop paying their mortgages or stop paying other bills such as credit cards or other loans. Of course, this would have an impact on financial institutions, both banks that made the loans and insurance companies that guaranteed them. Financial institutions have always bought and sold loans amongst themselves and found a niche market in sub-prime loans. They choose to take risk in buying and selling loans. If they chose to take this risk, they are also responsible for the consequences if their investment fails. Here his where the Government shows up again, bailing these companies out for investment decisions they made. In addition, the Government-sponsored Fannie and Freddie Macs take these bad loans off their books. Why? Because many of these corporations line the wallets of politicians. (Note the reform of Fannie and Freddie was not in the recent financial reform bill.) It is also my belief that the advent of mutual funds and online trading have added to this mess. Back in the day when one bought stock in a company, they received a physical certificate that essentially was proof of partial ownership in a company. As such, investors were much more attuned to the actual business dealings of the companies that they invested in (e.g. election of board members). Today, the investor is actually far removed from the companies they invest in or frequent sell and buy stock resulting in no vested interest in a particular company. This makes way for the "old boy's network" (CEOs, Presidents, Board Members) to have much less accountability resulting in, for one example, ridiculous compensation packages. The only accountability they are left with is the success or failure of their company and now the Government with their political friends are bailing them out leaving them with no accountability.
      rc76058@...
  • Two problems

    1) Although not of the "OMG! The sky is falling! The internet is dead!!" paranoid sort, the fact that they say there should be all these great regulations (that I agree with) on wired internet, but almost nothing on wireless is troubling. Yes, wireless is a growing industry, but that is hardly incompatible with the regulations they propose. Perhaps include a provision for traffic-type like voice over data or download over upload, etc. Those distinctions are well-defined, easily defensible differences. But "it's a growing industry so let's just avoid having those regulations applied here, k?" is not nearly as defensible.<br><br>2) Sure, a distinction between Grandma skyping with her grandkids vs. her neighbor surfing porn is a such a gross oversimplification as to have no bearing on reality. If all internet traffic fell into those two nice bins, then sure, even I would get behind favoring one over the other. But what about Grandma's Skype vs. her neighbor watching the latest Funny or Die videos? Well, Grandma is still more important, right? Or, even worse, what about Grandma watching a streaming video of her granddaughter while her neighbor Skypes with "some hot asian chick" to get himself off? Are we going to look deeper than just content type to actual motive for that content? And who decides where and how we make the split in the great grey spectrum between your false dichotomy? THAT is the real world, complex issue with Net Neutrality, not the silly oversimplification of Grandma vs porn.
    KenMarable
  • The Net is a Highway

    It seems to me that the net neutrality option like the "public option" in health care is about to die. The net at the moment is a highway which we all enjoy and share and Google and Verizon want to put a fast lane that you can pay to be on, therefore those that can afford to be on the fast lane have a better experience. They will even throw in Education (.edu) Health etc for FREE just to show they care. I say keep it neutral, keep it fair and make it faster for all of us.
    dtheiler
  • RE: The real Google-Verizon Net neutrality story

    "Type" could be a valid standard if more of the industry is brought into the loop. Nevertheless, I would feel better with the Google/Verizon proposal than leaving it up to the FCC which currently may be responsible but we must remember that it's a post that's filled by a political appointee and in the past it has allowed dubious mergers that killed local radio stations. Also, who would want to leave it to Congress where Rupert Murdoch has so many friends?
    sonomah
  • RE: The real Google-Verizon Net neutrality story

    I think the time has come for us all to consider what power the people have.
    It is time to make a stand.
    Consider this,...
    What if everyone who believed the net neutrality is paramount, and on September 1st 2010 made a stand.
    All of them dropped verizon phone, verizon wireless, verizon fios and verizon fios tv.
    What if all of the people who believe this is important, did a similar thing to google? Stopped using google for anything. No Searches, no email, no google voice, no google maps, no buzz etc?
    Do you think they would take notice?
    Not just for a day, but a huge slap in their face. No more google , no more verizon ever. If the people take a stand. the companies will surely fail quickly.
    While I would not want to see companies fail, I would prefer they live up to their word. When they don't and they think they are bigger than life, it is time to take them down a notch.
    Verizon as a company can be wiped off the map in mere months if just 40% of the people canceled their accounts.
    Google may take a bit longer, but keep in mind, the share holders would tell google what to do if they noticed a difference.
    If people saw verizon fail then sprint and att would not attempt such an idiot idea.
    I will be leave everything google and everything verizon on September 1st 2010.
    Please join me.
    Make a stand!
    On September 1st, 2010, stop using Google for anything. Cancel your Verizon accounts.
    Start to set everything up now to work around.
    Some people simply can not, and have some requirements and may only be able to cut some of the services. Others can cut them all as there is other alternatives.
    I will cut all their services on September 1st 2010.
    Instead of verizon wireless I will use sprint.
    Instead of verizon phone services I will use vonage.
    Instead of verizon fios internet I will use time warner cable.
    Instead of Fios TV I will use time warner Cable.

    Instead of google maps I will use Bing.
    Instead of google search I will use bing search.
    Instead of google gmail I will use windows live or live.com

    On September 1st, 2010 I will remove all things google or verizon from my cell phones and computer.

    I will not come back to Verizon as I believe they overstepped their bounds.
    I will not come back to google as I believe with this mistake they should fail.

    Good Bye Verizon
    Good Bye Google.

    You signed my cancellation when you ended, or tried to end, net neutrality.

    Please join me and make a stand on September 1st 2010.
    Harold Sharpe
  • RE: The real Google-Verizon Net neutrality story

    [i]The two companies actually proposed a legislative framework to ensure ongoing openness while ensuring optimal use of limited broadband resources.[/i]

    Which begs the question why are broadband resources more scarce in the US than in many other countries?




    :)
    none none