Google's net neutrality defeat

Google's major cave-in to Verizon on net neutrality got them a lot of bad press. But it wasn't Google's fault. It was yours.

Google's cave-in to the telcos on net neutrality got them a lot of bad press. But it wasn't Google's fault. It was yours.

America is roughly 15th in broadband penetration. We pay about $3/Mb of bandwidth, while the French pay 33¢ and the Japanese only 13¢. Even Portugal has better Internet than America.

Google is fighting an uphill battle to change that. And they're losing.

On the Internet and in Silicon Valley we think Google is important. But to the old pols - this is the the oldest Congress in history - they aren't.

Google is new to the Washington game. "Don't be evil" looks naïve to amoral Mos Eisley-on-the-Potomac dealmakers.

Google has a few tens of thousands employees concentrated in mostly liberal areas. They have a dozen or so US data centers. Not much local clout.

The telcos, on the other hand, have thousands of employees in every congressional district. They employ an army of lobbyists. And dole out huge campaign contributions.

Numbers AT&T was the largest campaign contributor with over $45 million from 1989 to 2010. According to the Center for Responsive Politics. Other big Telco/Cable contributors include:

  • Time Warner: $20,029,888
  • Verizon Communications: $19,320,192
  • BellSouth Corp: $12,993,782
  • Comcast Corp: $11,185,687
  • News Corp: $10,998,353
  • MCI Inc: $8,092,972

That's over $125 million. The only infotech company to make the list is Microsoft with $21M. Google isn't on the list.

The net neutrality hoax That's why the debate is about net neutrality. "Net neutrality" was invented during the Bush administration to create controversy.

It should have been called by its rightful name: common carrier. Common carrier status for telcos is over 150 years old. Common carrier law is derived from English common law that is almost 400 years old. This should be settled.

In a Scientific American editorial Why Broadband Service in the U.S. Is So Awful - And one step that could change it the authors point out

A decade ago the U.S. ranked at or near the top of most studies of broadband price and performance. But that was before the FCC made a terrible mistake. In 2002 it reclassified broadband Internet service as an “information service” rather than a “telecommunications service.” In theory, this step implied that broadband was equivalent to a content provider (such as AOL or Yahoo!) and was not a means to communicate, such as a telephone line. In practice, it has stifled competition.

The Storage Bits take All the scary hand-waving about government takeovers, investment freezes, bandwidth caps and net neutrality itself are designed to take American's eyes off the ball. As game theory shows, net neutrality means a faster Internet for all.

The telcos swing a heavy hammer: big campaign and lobbying budgets; hundreds of thousands of employees; big media/cable companies to spread the word; and a political party that is happy to have them write the rules. Amazing that Google has done as well as it has.

The only way to even this out is for citizens who want common carrier broadband is to vote for those who favor it. And hey! Sergey, Larry, Eric: how about cutting loose with a few hundred mill to help even out the debate?

Comments welcome, of course.