Is Net Neutrality About to be Slaughtered by Google and Verizon?
August 5, 2010
(ChattahBox)—Goodbye net neutrality, we hardly knew you. Against the backdrop of a series of “secret” meetings between the F.C.C. and the big players providing Internet service, to reach a consensus on the regulation of America’s broadband delivery, The New York Times is reporting that Google and Verizon are working on their own side deal that has the potential of effectively killing the concept of net neutrality, which offers equal broadband access to even the lowliest of websites. The purported deal would give Verizon the right to provide speedier Internet connections to websites that pay for the privilege. What if you want to visit a website that can’t afford to pay Verizon’s fees? The site would load as slow as molasses, prompting some users to give up. Regardless of any reported deal between Google and Verizon; the F.C.C. is effectively toothless when it comes to regulating broadband access, thanks to a recent federal appeals ruling. That’s why the federal agency has been furiously attempting to reach its own deal with Internet providers. But, it may be only a matter of time before net neutrality slowly disappears from our collective memories, unless the F.C.C. can find a way to wield its regulatory hammer.
According to The New York Times’ report, Google is anxious for a deal allowing prioritized Internet access, because its Android operating system is used on Verizon smartphones:
“Frustrated with that lack of progress in the last two months, direct talks between Google and Verizon have accelerated, according to people close to the discussions who were not authorized to comment publicly.”
What would a Google-Verizon deal mean? Verizon would favor some Web content for a fee, doing away with a level playing field, and raising prices for consumers in the process. It’s a lose-lose proposition for consumers:
“At issue for consumers is how the companies that provide the pipeline to the Internet will ultimately direct traffic on their system, and how quickly consumers are able to gain access to certain Web content. Consumers could also see continually rising bills for Internet service, much as they have for cable television.”
“The prospect of a Google-Verizon agreement infuriates many consumer advocates, who feel that it would concentrate in a few corporations control of what to date has been a free and open Internet system in which consumers decide which companies are successful.”
Google has responded to the NY Times’ piece on Twitter, saying the search engine giant has not negotiated with Verizon for a multi-tiered Internet connection deal to carry its traffic:
“@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.”
Good to hear, but what exactly has Google been discussing with Verizon?
And the larger question is: What can the F.C.C. do, if anything, to preserve a level playing field in Internet access?
How have the other major Internet providers responded to news of a possible Google-Verizon deal? AT&T, having more customers than Verizon, released a statement, saying the company remains committed to the F.C.C. talks.
“AT&T is not a party to the purported agreement between Google and Verizon,” Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, said in a statement. “We remain committed to trying to reach a consensus on this issue through the FCC process.”