Google-Verizon blueprint: creeping control of Internet by corporate giants

The Google-Verizon statement on regulating the Internet isn’t a business deal, the two companies say. Its a “legislative framework proposal” and a “a path to the open internet.”

Web watchers aren’t buying it. It’s an alliance of two companies looking to lock in market advantages with political action.

The Wall Street Journal describes the brief paper “as a high-profile effort to influence a debate in Washington over the future rules of the road for the Internet — a debate that Congress has yet to begin in earnest.” The says its “worse than feared.”

Endgadget has a good primer on the basic provisions of the proposal—and a cut-to-the chase explanation of one of its most important business feature. Google doesn’t favor net neutrality on wireless devices, only plugged in (“wireline”) computers.

“… the proposal reads to us like Verizon’s basically agreeing to trade neutrality on its wired networks for the right to control its wireless network any way it wants — apart from requiring wireless carriers and ISPs to be “transparent” about network management, none of the neutrality principles that govern wired networks will apply to wireless networks. That’s a big deal — it’s pretty obvious that wireless broadband will be the defining access technology for the next generation of devices and services.”

As WashPo’s Cecilia Kang explains:

“That means Verizon could block an application such as Microsoft’s Bing search service from its subscribers’ mobile phones, or it could charge consumers extra for access to certain popular applications delivered at better quality than other Web sites.”

For Jonathan Zittrain in the New York Times the paper portends a market in deal making between big internet service providers (ISPs)–the telecoms and cable companies—and the big Web companies—Google, with consumers and Web innovators getting squeezed out.

“When each ISP can, in effect, speak on behalf of its unwitting subscribers, serving as the troll under the bridge offering up different conditions for access to those customers, the economics of the Net will start to favor the consolidated, the well-connected, the well-heeled.”

The proposal may not be the end of the Web as we know it. It’s a shot from two big players in much bigger big war. But it previews where the big corporations are moving on the Web. It is certainly the end of Google’s once clear defense of net neutrality and as Slate’s Tim Wu notes, a self-inflicted blow to its reputation.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps noted that the problem with the paper is that it “moves the discussion forward.”

“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.”

The proposal  nudges us toward an Internet regulatory regime where a handful of private companies gain control over Web traffic.

Published by Margot Williams

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.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.