Net neutrality advocates claim Google and Verizon's joint policy proposal for an "open Internet" will do more harm than good when it comes to keeping networks as open to all data. Critics claim the proposal is "worse than feared" and if adopted will result in users paying premium rates to access content such as critical health care services and access to online gaming platfoms.
In a press conference Monday the two Internet giants detailed a plan that would require all broadband connections to be content neutral, preventing service providers from blocking or degrading Web traffic. While on the surface the proposal looks like Google and Verizon are looking out for the best interests of the Internet as a whole, many feel that the companies have a hidden agenda.
The biggest sore spot identified by leading net nuetrality experts centers on Google and Verizon's notion that some Internet traffic should be treated differently than other types of traffic. Things such as "advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options" Google and Verizon argue these services should get preferential treatment. Many see this as Google and Verizon attempting to take steps to create a pay-to-play tier of higher bandwidth and more reliable Internet service. The end result might be either content providers or consumers will have to pay more for access to a premium version of the Internet.
Something To Hide?
Sherwin Sly, Deputy Legal Director of Public Knowledge, a Washington DC based public interest group concerned with digital culture, criticized the idea that Verizon and Google would make a proposal in the first place: "The agreement outsources the FCC's powers and authorities to the very industries these rules are supposed to oversee." Having Verizon and Google make rules about the Web is comparable to having Ford or GM makes rules about auto safety. Public Knowledge has issued a petition on its site to the FCC calling it to "take action now to protect innovation, competition and American broadband consumers" and not allow broadband companies to make rules of their own.
Free Press, a nonprofit organization working to reform the media, issued a statement calling the proposal "worse than feared" and urging policy makers to reject what they call "fake net neutrality." The Free Press says that the framework of the proposal "opens the door wide open for ISPs and deep-pocketed content companies to engage in practices that will turn the Internet platform into something that more closely resembles the closed cable TV model."
While Free Press say the proposal is disguised "as a reasonable path forward" it feels that if adopted the path will instead "lead to toll booths on the information superhighway" where users have to pay to get to get to "premium" content they want to see. "The Google-Verizon pact isn't just as bad as we feared - it's much worse. They are attacking the Internet while claiming to preserve it. Google users won't be fooled."
Is Google "Evil?"
Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, suggests that traditional broadband connections will be obsolete in a few years and that the "transparency rules" suggested in the proposal for wireless carriers will simply allow Americans to "visibly watch" free and open Internet disappear.
Green also suggests that Verizon's large investment in broadband may be a motive for it to keep it alive in a world where wireless is quickly taking over. If only broadband Internet is open, it would stand to reason that more people would in turn want broadband.
Green's committee has started an emergency online petition to Google simply titled "Don't be evil - stand up for the free and open Internet." The petition has currently been signed by more than 300,000 people and contains an open letter to the company:
As a Google user, I am telling you, 'Don't be evil.' The deal between Google and Verizon is evil, because it threatens the open Internet, which hundreds of millions of people rely on every day. Live up to your founding motto, walk away from this deal and save the Internet.
[Add your name]
What does the FCC say?
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps posted the following statement on the FCC Website: "Some will claim this announcement moves the discussion forward. That's one of its many problems. It is time to move a decision forward-a decision to reassert FCC authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open Internet now and forever, and to put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations."