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Did Google-Verizon deal scuttle a better Web plan?

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Mon, Aug 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm

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Did Google-Verizon deal scuttle a better Web plan?

The New York Times reported Monday that Google and Verizon reached their agreement on managing the Internet just as the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts to forge “a stronger agreement” were close to succeeding.

The report cited three unnamed participants in the confidential talks.

“Unlike the Google-Verizon proposal, the agreement would have imposed some rules on wireless Internet, these people said,” according to the Times.

“We were very close,” said one person briefed on the talks.

As reports of Google-Verizon deal emerged, the FCC called off the talks, which included AT&T, a cable industry group, Skype and  the  Open Internet Coalition.

Google has tried to  justify its agreement with Verizon in part by claiming that, in the absence of a public-private sector consensus on net neutrality, the company needed to propose something constructive.

I’d say it’s more realistic to say that Google cut its deal with Verizon precisely to head off “a stronger agreement” that would have cramped the two companies ambitions to dominate the commercial wireless market.

In Sunday editorial, the editors of Times condemned the Google-Verizon deal saying it give the private sector “too much wiggle room” to exercise commercial control over Web traffic.

The Sunday editorial was especially critical of the Google-Verizon opposition to net neutrality on wireless devices, calling it “a serious error.”

“This is not an adequate framework to guide Internet policy, especially in a market as concentrated as the United States, where Verizon and AT&T control about 60 percent of wireless subscribers and 80 percent of Americans live in areas with only two wireline broadband providers. Consumers will lose if wireless goes unregulated.”

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This post was written by:

Margot Williams

- who has written 49 posts on Inside Google.

Margot Williams has more than two decades of experience in roles as investigative researcher, research editor, database editor, technology trainer and library director at The New York Times, The Washington Post, Gannett newspapers and Time Warner. She was lead researcher on two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams at The Washington Post for reporting on terrorism in 2002 and for an investigation of the use of deadly force by the District of Columbia police in 1999. Margot is the co-author of “Great Scouts! CyberGuides for Subject Searching on the Web” (Cyberage Books, 1999) and contributed to the “Networkings” column in The Washington Post for five years.

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