Home / The Google and Verizon Saga: For Better or For Worse?

The Google and Verizon Saga: For Better or For Worse?

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Government regulation is the most polarizing topic from a political standpoint as it determines (or doesn’t determine) every aspect of our daily lives, from big issues like health care, to little issues like seat belt laws. It is the very determinant of political parties.

The next to enter the regulate vs. deregulate fray is none other than the untouchable Google. The Internet has long been the one place to go for completely free speech and free sourcing of information, back to when Google was just a grunged-out, flannel wearing adolescent in the 90s.

The FCC has regulated everyone from Eminem to evening TV programs and now might get a bigger piece of the Internet pie, or get shut out. Long been the hot piece of tail for big business, the web has now become the target for a shared voice of dissent.

Google and Verizon have started a romance and there is much speculation as to how the lusty pair will end up. The Google/Verizon deal would seek to create tiers of web content that could potentially send net neutrality packing. After all, shouldn’t the unbiased FCC be the one to go after net neutrality offenders, not the very companies (Google and Verizon, among others) who would have stake in such decisions?

Let’s look at how the Google/Verizon deal is unfolding:

August 4, 2010.
Google and Verizon near a deal on web pay tiers and the world begins reporting on it. The point would be to allow those with deeper pockets to gain access to information at faster speeds than unpaid Internet users, sort of like a “priority mail” type of hierarchy. Critics (and there are many) argued this would go against the very basic Internet rules of net neutrality and the free flow of information. No form of content should be prioritized over another. This could also lessen the FCC’s authority over broadband.

August 5, 2010.
Google denies its relationship to Verizon publicly on Twitter (that must hurt) saying “@NYTimes is wrong. We’ve not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet.” Verizon retaliates with the New York Times “is mistaken”. (Read Write Web).

The Times says if an agreement is reached it would only hurt the companies involved. Basically if things go wrong, they only have themselves to blame. To accept that statement underestimates Google’s and Verizon’s influence over lawmakers who give the FCC their power (or take it away).

August 9, 2010.
Google and Verizon do the opposite of their previous statement “announcing a joint legislative framework proposal: Internet network transparency and FCC enforcement with up to $2 million fines for network providers that engage in anti-competitive measures that hurt consumers.”

So now the pair is focused directly on lawmakers.

Like any adulterous affair, the first step is to deny, deny, deny. Which Verizon did first this time. “There will be no prioritization of traffic from Google over the Internet, period,” Verizon’s CEO Ivan Seidenberg said. “No paid prioritization of traffic over the public Internet.”

And then Google’s Eric Schmidt: “We like the public Internet,” he said, “and we intend to use it.”

Verizon goes on to discuss its return on investment from a broadband deal saying, “Google has far more ideas about how to monetize and grow the public Internet than Verizon had in its original understanding [of the Internet, apparently].” Essentially Verizon is claiming no ties with the metaphorical “life insurance” of the Internet which is its freedom of speech and access. That’s what they all say. The press ain’t buying it.

Both Google and Verizon claim their deal is for the better, innovative good of the Internet, attempting to ease entrepreneurs’ minds. But journalists are on the lookout for malicious intent and personal motives at hand.

Read the legislative framework proposal here.

August 10, 2010.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation highlights their reasons this unholy union should or shouldn’t happen:

“The proposed solution: a narrow grant of power to the FCC to enforce neutrality within carefully specified parameters.” The EFF says this isn’t necessarily the worst offense. They are against the FCC having free reign over regulation on the Internet. Limiting the FCC to case-by-case rule-making and curbing broad decisions is certainly appealing. That in and of itself could appease innovators.

Also, the promise of “standard-setting bodies”, those with deeper technological understanding would help provide aid to the FCC on the terms of the broader web-community to take the politics out of the equation.

BUT. These are the other line items proposed by Google/Verizon that are more worrisome.

The definition of “reasonable network management” causes some concern to The EFF in the sense that it may be too ambiguous to prevent conflicts of interest from interfering in the free flow of information. It may not have guaranteed that Comcast couldn’t interfere with BitTorrent had it existed when that decision was made.

The EFF’s final trouble area in the net neutrality proposal is this. A portion of the document that undermines neutrality the most is the “‘Lawful’ Content and Wireless Exclusions” arena. The term “lawful” is not defined so any content deemed “unlawful” would be a purely subjective decision which would severely take away freedom of expression online.

Wireless exclusions are the final straw in Google/Verizon’s plan that would eliminate the open-to-all environment of the Internet as it stands. There is already some discrepancy between content one can view while wired and content one can view while not. For wireless to not undergo the same restrictions and regulations as wired Internet would be a huge stab in the back of neutrality enforcement.

August 12, 2010.
Unfair advantage is the phrase of the day. Blogs such as Daily Kos and, once more, Read Write Web continue to weigh in, claiming there is still much to be alarmed by.

Daily Kos posted this message of urgency: “That is the good news, but only if the FCC and Congress actually write the rules to keep the Internet open, vibrant, and the engine of entrepreneurism and innovation that it’s proven to be. Call the White House at 202-456-1111, and also please call Speaker Pelosi (202-225-0100) and Leader Reid (202-224-3542) as well as your own representatives and Senators. Give them the message that the Google/Verizon proposal is not real net neutrality.”

The bottom line is that opponents to Google/Verizon’s matrimony do not want their field un-leveled in terms of Internet access. It’s key to playing the game. Venture capitalists and other “little guys” want equal opportunity to score the hottest real-estate against the quintessential quarterback that is Verizon. But they have to be protected in order to compete.

So now it all culminates into this. At the beginning, Google and Verizon claim they do not want to politicize the Internet. Today, there are protests of Google in order to save free speech on the Internet.

So can they be trusted after playing to our insecurities with secret conversations and liaisons? Or will this relationship bloom into the salvation for new journalism and subsidize a better online community?

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About Jessi Stafford