8.5.2010 Roundup on Google, Verizon, & Net Neutrality

Occasionally a story dominates internet news.  Take today’s massive wave on the reported deal between Google & Verizon on preferential treatment. I’m trying a new format to capture all of the stories I came across today.  If I missed something, please post it in the comments.

Google and Verizon Near Deal on Pay Tiers for Web, Edward Wyatt, New York Times.

Google and Verizon, two leading players in Internet service and content, are nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege.

Google denies talks with Verizon to end Net neutrality, Sharon Gaudin, Computer World.

“The New York Times is quite simply wrong,” wrote Mistique Cano, a Google spokesman, in an e-mail. “We have not had any conversations with Verizon about paying for carriage of Google traffic. We remain as committed as we always have been to an open Internet.”

NYT: Google Just Killed Net Neutrality (UPDATING: Google and Verizon Deny Internet Traffic Deal), Brian Barrett, Gizmodo

It’s notable that the Google denial says very specifically that Google has not had discussions about paying for carriage of Google and YouTube. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t spoken with Verizon about creating a framework that would undermine net neutrality generally. The WSJ report seems to support that interpretation.

Google, Verizon Try to Shape Net-Neutrality Law, Amy Schatz, Wall Street Journal

Details are scarce. People briefed on the tentative agreement, however, said it could provide a framework for legislation that would codify some of the Federal Communications Commission’s net-neutrality principles. It would, however, allow phone and cable companies to offer faster, priority delivery of Internet traffic for companies that pay extra for the service, these people said. The agreement would not apply net-neutrality principles to wireless networks, these people said.

Google, Verizon Said to Strike Deal on Web Traffic Rules, Todd Shields, Bloomberg

“Any outcome, any deal that doesn’t preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet for consumers and entrepreneurs will be unacceptable,” Genachowski told reporters in Washington.

Google, Verizon working on Web deal, tony Romm & Kim Hart, Politico

The two companies later penned a March op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, just in time for the release of the FCC’s broadband plan. Both Schmidt and Seidenberg then urged the FCC to allow “the framework of minimal government involvement” that has long governed the Internet to continue.

Good Will Shunting: Google’s distressing turn on Net neutrality, David Weinberger, Joho the Blog

…it gives up the most important non-market principle of the Internet: The Internet is not for anything in particular. It is for everything we can imagine. It is for us to decide what its for. The Internet is ours, not Verizon’s, not the FCC’s, and not Google’s…

So, why might Google be switching to a version of Net neutrality that is not neutral about what the Net is for? We could give Google the benefit of the doubt — “Don’t be evil” and all that — but when they start to pull this sort of crap, they lose some of the good will they’ve earned.

So, one possible, uncharitable explanation: Google has joined the chorus of commercial entities that think the Internet is for the delivery and passive consumption of “content.” That is, the Internet is a type of TV link 1 link 2. Why might Google be thinking this way? Perhaps because it doesn’t want YouTube videos to be discriminated against. Or, more likely, it wants Google TV to be able to compete well. So, because Google is growing a TV business, it now gets to decide that TV needs to shoulder aside all other traffic on the Net…

A proposal: We shorten “Verizon-and-Comcast” to “VomiCast.” Just a thought.

Google’s Net Neutrality Flip-Flop? Bianca Bosker, Huffington Post

Although the deal is unconfirmed, Google’s support for a plan that would overthrow net neutrality would run counter to the company’s long-standing position on the issue.

Google-Verizon Deal: The End of The Internet as We Know It, Josh Silver, Huffington Post

How did this happen? We have a Federal Communications Commission that has been denied authority by the courts to police the activities of Internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast. All because of a bad decision by the Bush-era FCC. We have a pro-industry FCC Chairman who is terrified of making a decision, conducting back room dealmaking, and willing to sit on his hands rather than reassert his agency’s authority. We have a president who promised to “take a back seat to no one on Net Neutrality” yet remains silent. We have a congress that is nearly completely captured by industry. Yes, more than half of the US congress will do pretty much whatever the phone and cable companies ask them to. Add the clout of Google, and you have near-complete control of Capitol Hill.

About the Verizon/Google “Deal” on Net Neutrality, Marvin Ammori, Huffington Post

This deal matters for lobbying. Essentially the business partners have agreed on how their DC lobbyists will approach a certain important issue on which they once disagreed…

And Google and Verizon do not decide how to regulate themselves. On paper, at least (and that paper is the Constitution), we have a government of the people. We have an agency, the Federal Communications Commission, charged with protecting the public interest and that has declared a policy of ensuring an open Internet for all consumers and innovators, for all businesses from Expedia to Mint.com, for all speakers from bloggers to Twitter-celebrities to emailing teens and grandmas.


No one should be surprised that such companies will seek to slant the playing field in their favor, a result that will stifle the next generation of Internet innovators and short-circuit the economic benefits needed to power our economy in the 21st century. It is time for the FCC to step in to protect consumers, innovation, and fair competition.

Net Neutrality in Gravest Danger, Mike Lux, Huffington Post

What is most tragic about this was that in the 2008 campaign, this issue of net neutrality and democratic media was where Obama was the most unequivocally good. His platform and speeches on this issue were clear as a bell, and left no room for error: he was on the side of consumers, activists, and entrepreneurs in fighting against the telecoms efforts to make the internet a playground for only those who could afford to pay the big bucks. Then he appointed a strong net neutrality advocate, Julius Genachowski, as the head of the FCC. I met Julius when I worked in the transition, and was delighted by the appointment, because I was under the impression he would be strongly on our side on this issue.

Now the administration seems to be walking away from all their promises. It is a bitter betrayal.

Google Is Making A Devil’s Pact With Verizon, Jeff Jarvis, Business Insider

What also concerns me is that creators will get screwed, too. Only the big guys will be able to afford to pay ISPs for top-tier service and so we return to the media oligarchy that — O, irony — YouTube and Google broke apart. Google, I fear, is gravitating back to the big-media side because it wants those brands on YouTube so it can get their advertisers on YouTube because those advertisers are still too stupid to see where the customers really are. And then we’re back to a world of big-media control over what we get to see. It was the millions of little guys — people who made their own videos, people who embedded videos — who made YouTube YouTube.

My real fear then is that Google is too big. I certainly don’t mean that in the way that EU regulators do: “so big we have to rule it.” Uh-uh. No, I mean it may be too big for its own good. Too big for the right hand to find the left hand and have coherent strategies for operating systems (Android v. Chrome) and applications (Docs v. Wave). So big that it starts to identify with other big guys (ISPs and Hollywood entertainment conglomerates). Big is a fine thing when it brings critical mass and the freedom to innovate. As Eric Schmidt himself says, lack of innovation can kill a tech company. So can bad innovation — fat innovation…

On a different thread, I also want to note that I think the way this devils’ deal works out is that it will give the FCC and possibly even the FTC and Congress the rope they need to hang ISPs on net neutrality. Is that Google’s really evil plan? It doesn’t like regulation but wants it in this case and so it’s creating the invitation for it? Naw As I said, I’m not a conspiracy theorist. In any case, I do think that such a deal will invite regulation…

I won’t cry for ISPs. I was at a meeting of cable ISPs some years ago when they were all cackling about their margins exceeding 40%. They ain’t hurting. The solution to all this remains competition. Remember that Google’s founders entered the big spectrum auction a few years ago to force neutrality and they want broadcast white spaces opened up to become “wi-fi on steroids” and thus competition for broadband providers.

Did Net Neutrality Just Get Knifed in The Back? Om Malik, GigaOm

This agreement shouldn’t come as a surprise. The two companies are becoming increasingly close of late. Google is trying to make Android a major player in the mobile world. One of the company’s closest partners in this effort, in the U.S., is Verizon Wireless. It would therefore make sense that the two will come to some sort of an agreement.

Groups Blast Possible Google-Verizon Deal On Net Neutrality,Eliza Krigman and Juliana Gruenwald, National Journal

“We call on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to abandon its ‘negotiations’ with Google, Verizon and other large companies,” the groups said. “Instead, the Commission should move ahead with legally enforceable, binding rulemaking that would govern not only the open Internet, but also ensure the Commission’s authority to reform Universal Service, and to make policy in cybersecurity, privacy, device compatibility and other critical issues involving broadband services.”

Net neutrality is foremost free speech issue of our time, Al Franken, CNN.com

This isn’t a liberal or conservative issue. Everyone has a stake in protecting the First Amendment.

And it isn’t even strictly a political issue. The internet’s freedom and openness has made it a hotbed for innovations that change our lives. It’s been an incredible engine of job creation.

The internet was developed at taxpayer expense to benefit the public interest. If we let corporations prioritize some content over others, we’ll lose what makes it so valuable to our economy, our democracy and our daily lives.

Net neutrality may sound like a technical issue, but it’s the key to preserving the internet as we know it — and it’s the most important First Amendment issue of our time.

Google Won’t Violate Net Neutrality if It Can Redefine It First, John Paczkowski, Digital Daily

Yes, I guess “people do get confused about net neutrality.”

Genachowski, Man Up! And Silicon Valley, Wake Up! Stacey Higginbotham, GigaOm

Genachowski may not be the quintessential politician, but his agency lives within the political system where the incumbent ISPs are accustomed to fighting, and this is where he failed…

But by staying out of Washington politics and pinning its hopes on grassroots efforts, Silicon Valley is squandering its opportunity to have a voice. Right now, Google is the primary voice Silicon Valley has, and as it stands, Google appears to be selling the Valley down the river.

And finally…

Net neutrality fans cheer as FCC gives up on “backroom” talks, Matthew Lasar, Ars Technica

“We have called off this round of stakeholder discussions,” FCC Chief of Staff Edward Lazarus declared today. “It has been productive on several fronts, but has not generated a robust framework to preserve the openness and freedom of the Internet—one that drives innovation, investment, free speech, and consumer choice. All options remain on the table as we continue to seek broad input on this vital issue.”


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