Verizon And Google Sitting In A Tree, Killing Net Neutrality

Edward Wyatt at NYT:

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.

The charges could be paid by companies, like YouTube, owned by Google, for example, to Verizon, one of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, to ensure that its content received priority as it made its way to consumers. The agreement could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users.

Such an agreement could overthrow a once-sacred tenet of Internet policy known as net neutrality, in which no form of content is favored over another. In its place, consumers could soon see a new, tiered system, which, like cable television, imposes higher costs for premium levels of service.

Any agreement between Verizon and Google could also upend the efforts of the Federal Communications Commission to assert its authority over broadband service, which was severely restricted by a federal appeals court decision in April.

Jared Newman at PC World:

If Google and Verizon really are conspiring to kill Net neutrality, as several reports suggest, both companies would bruise their reputations in the process.

Word of a deal or near-complete negotiations between Google and Verizon appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Politico and Bloomberg, each publication citing anonymous sources. The stories all present slightly different versions of the facts, but they generally agree that Net neutrality — the idea that all Internet traffic is treated equally — would erode.

The New York Times’ version is the most terrifying, claiming that Internet companies, such as Google, would be able to pay a fee to Verizon for faster delivery speeds on services like YouTube. If Verizon extended these kinds of deals to other companies, consumers could choose to pay more for these faster services in a premium package, says the Times.

All the reports note that the agreement wouldn’t apply to mobile phones, meaning Verizon would be able to manage traffic as it pleases, with no intervention from Google.

A deal like this would put Google’s reputation on the line. In the past, the company has defended the idea of an equal-access Internet, and in 2006 Google chief executive Eric Schmidt slammed “phone and cable monopolies” who “want the power to choose who gets access to high-speed lanes and whose content gets seen first and fastest.”

Comments like those give the impression that Google’s commercial interests were secondary to preserving a level playing field for all Internet companies. The supposed deal between Google and Verizon would jeopardize that impression if it allowed Google to pay extra for faster delivery.

Josh Silver at Huffington Post:

The deal marks the beginning of the end of the Internet as you know it. Since its beginnings, the Net was a level playing field that allowed all content to move at the same speed, whether it’s ABC News or your uncle’s video blog. That’s all about to change, and the result couldn’t be more bleak for the future of the Internet, for television, radio and independent voices.

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.

A non-neutral Internet means that companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Google can turn the Net into cable TV and pick winners and losers online. A problem just for Internet geeks? You wish. All video, radio, phone and other services will soon be delivered through an Internet connection. Ending Net Neutrality would end the revolutionary potential that any website can act as a television or radio network. It would spell the end of our opportunity to wrest access and distribution of media content away from the handful of massive media corporations that currently control the television and radio dial.

So the Google-Verizon deal can be summed up as this: “FCC, you have no authority over us and you’re not going to do anything about it. Congress, we own you, and we’ll get whatever legislation we want. And American people, you can’t stop us.

Jason Kincaid at Tech Crunch:

Yesterday, the New York Times published a story that detailed an agreement in the works between Verizon and Google that would effectively kill off net neutrality by allowing “Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege”. The news sparked outrage in the tech community, because Google has a long history of advocating net neutrality. Now both Google and Verizon are coming out to claim that the New York Times story is incorrect.A report in The Guardian cites a Google spokesperson as saying ” “The New York Times is quite simply wrong. 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.”

Verizon’s policy blog has posted a statement as well:

“The NYT article regarding conversations between Google and Verizon is mistaken. It fundamentally misunderstands our purpose. As we said in our earlier FCC filing, our goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation. To suggest this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect.”

Google’s own public policy blog doesn’t have anything on the story yet, but its Twitter account did comment on the matter:

“@NYTimes is wrong. We’ve not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet.”

Obviously Verizon and Google are talking to each other about how best to deal with the backlash, and Google is making it clear that it’s still an ardent supporter of net neutrality. Still, it’s a bit odd that it took so long for Google to respond to this in any way (the NYT article came out last night, and literally dozens of stories were written about it before Google tweeted about it).

Daniel Indiviglio at The Atlantic:

Today we learned that Verizon and Google were near a deal to slaughter the principle of Internet neutrality in its sleep. Shortly thereafter, however, they denied that they are planning to inflict any harm on the maxim that the Internet should be an egalitarian utopia. While it’s possible that Google will try to hold onto this philosophical ideal, it’s rather likely practicality will eventually gnaw away at their willpower and force them and others to cut deals with Internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon. If you combine this with several other ways the world is evolving, you quickly see that ISPs will eventually take over the world, or at least be one of the biggest forces in the economy.

Net Neutrality Is Bound to Fail

Net neutrality has already been alluded to. This is a complex topic that can’t possibly be fully explored here, but net neutrality won’t likely endure. It’s simply impractical. ISPs have legitimate reasons, beyond squeezing more profit out of customers, for wanting to be able to discriminate on pricing. When they eventually do break through the current barriers that exist, their pricing power will be incredible. Eventually most Internet-driven revenue will have to pass through the hands of the ISPs, who will eagerly take a cut.

John Hudson at The Atlantic with a round-up

Rosa Golijan at Gizmodo:

Of course, even if Verizon and Google come to such an odd agreement, they’ll still have to deal with the FCC before anything can happen, so let’s not panic just yet.

UPDATE: Alan Davidson and Tom Tauke at The Google Blog

David Dayen at Firedoglake

Stacey Higginbotham at Gigaom

Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch

UPDATE #2: Kevin Drum

David Post

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1 Comment

Filed under New Media, Technology

One response to “Verizon And Google Sitting In A Tree, Killing Net Neutrality

  1. Pingback: What We’ve Built Today « Around The Sphere

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