Net Neutrality: Reading Between the Google-Verizon Lines

Google and Verizon unveiled a joint proposal advocating net neutrality--sort of. When net neutrality opponents band together to embrace the concept, it's prudent to pull back the curtain and look more closely at the details and motives behind the plan.

The FCC has a job to do to protect the broadband interests of the nation.
The New York Times may have been off the mark in prematurely reporting that Google and Verizon were double-crossing the ongoing FCC net neutrality negotiations with secret back-room deals. However, the reports may actually have been more truth than fiction because ultimately the two parties emerged from those secret meetings with a self-serving plan that sabotages those efforts.

Let's use an analogy. Assume that the FCC called a meeting to declare pizza the best food ever. Then Google and Verizon meet on the side and call a press conference to declare that pizza is, in fact, the best food ever. Awesome! We all agree. Right? Well, when you look at the details, Google and Verizon are declaring pizza the best food ever as long as it doesn't have pepperoni and it is only eaten indoors while sitting on folding chairs. All other scenarios are still open to interpretation.

If Google and Verizon are in favor of net neutrality, why not simply get on board with the FCC plan? The more important questions are: "Why is the FCC asking the industry it is tasked with regulating what the regulations should look like?" or "Why should we let the fox propose a plan for protecting the hen house?".

Involving Verizon, Comcast, and other broadband Internet providers--wired or wireless--is like inviting Al Qaeda, North Korea, and Iran to work out a plan for defending the nation, or inviting BP, Exxon-Mobil, and Shell to work out details to protect our environment from the perils of offshore drilling. We have government agencies that are supposed to manage these activities. Negotiating a compromise with the industry that is supposed to be regulated violates the agency's responsibility to the nation.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and the rest of the FCC should be ashamed that they chose political expediency over the best interests of the nation by calling the net neutrality negotiations in the first place. Doing what's right is rarely popular, and the FCC definitely shouldn't expect the industry to welcome oversight with open arms.

The FCC has a job to do. That job is to regulate and oversee communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. It doesn't need additional authority from Congress to execute those duties, and it doesn't need the permission or cooperation of the parties it is tasked with overseeing.

The Google-Verizon "net neutrality" plan is a thinly--and poorly--veiled attempt to appear to embrace the principles of net neutrality while not-so-secretly laying the groundwork for doing the exact opposite. Google and Verizon have a profit motive and a fiduciary obligation to their shareholders. They would fail in their obligations if they didn't do everything possible to minimize regulation and maximize profit.

Profit motive and corporate greed are a conflict of interest for doing what's right. The FCC, and the nation, should read between the lines and reject the Google-Verizon proposal out of hand.

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