Google's and Verizon's proposed "legislative framework" around the issue of network neutrality continues to make headlines. Monday, as Verizon's executive vice president of public affairs, Tom Tauke, addressed a conference on the issue, deep divides between advacocy groups, various segments of industry, and politicians reared their ugly heads again.
Unfortunately, although Google's and Verizon's plan may be incomplete (and plenty would say self-serving), at their core, the two companies are right. Tauke put it best when he said,
"Nobody believes that the promise of broadband is Internet access and video, which is what we have today," Tauke said, adding that future services online will include "tele-work, health-care monitoring, smart grids, smart transportation" and other services.
"That requires a different set of rules..."
Gee...you think? If a surgeon at Johns Hopkins is operating via robot on a remote patient 2000 miles away, that is not the time for lag because YouTube gets the same priority as telemedicine under idealistic, outdated Net neutrality rules.
Obviously, independent oversight will be required to ensure that fears about deep corporate pockets skewing bandwidth allocation in their favor don't come true. I'm not even sure that our government could provide adequate oversite and management, given our penchant for corporate lobbyists and clueless bureaucrats. However, to close-mindedly and doggedly stick to the ideal of complete Net neutrality makes no sense as our use of the Internet becomes not only ubquitous but critical through every sector and element of our society.
Unfortunately, when two heavyweights like Verizon and Google start making proposals like this, it usually reeks of self-interest and corporate greed. However, as Congress continues to debate related issues (ranging from rural broadband to FCC scope and jurisdiction) with a clearly poor understanding of the real issue at hand (ensuring universal access to the Internet), someone had to step up. This isn't the sort of thing that you or I could just walk into the House of Representatives and throw up on the wall, either. It would take serious corporate muscle to make someone in Washington take notice (unfortunately).
That doesn't make it evil. It makes it timely and undeserving of the knee-jerk Google-is-taking-over-the-Internet-and-Ma-Bell-is-back-to-help mentality. The proposal is a starting point, not a manifesto. Neither Google nor Verizon have much to gain by delivering ultimata to Congress. They do have much to gain if things go their way, though, necessitating transparent, strong oversight and review of all elements of a shared Internet.
The most militant of Net neutrality advocates, however, need to take a step back and consider the long-term implications of no-compromise, literal network neutrality.