Don’t be Google: A battle-cry for Net Neutrality

By now you should have heard about the closed-door talks that Google isn’t having with Verizon that absolutely wouldn’t destroy Net Neutrality as we’ve known it (and Google has argued for it) for the last several years.

Here’s the rundown:

The New York Times published an article that Google and Verizon were nearing an agreement in talks that would create a tiered structure for content providers such that certain types of content providers would get faster speeds than others.  In the current model of the internet, everyone works with what we’ve got, and any speed issues are solely on how much you as a consumer are willing or able to pay.  As everyone hooks up to broadband and Google is fighting for nationwide fiber-optic, speed differences will be dependent upon the servers of the content providers for the first time, rather than how slow or fast your modem is (remember 28.8k?).

Basically, this would give some content providers (i.e. anyone who’s worked out a special deal with Google, or content providers that Google already owns, like YouTube) fast-lane speeds whereas everyone else (say, a video startup in someone’s garage to compete with YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu, etc) would be stuck behind grandma.

Essentially, this means that if you are friends with Google (or Verizon), you get to be in the cool kids club.  If not, you can eat the cool kids’ dust.

Huffington Post published a great editorial yesterday that highlighted some of Google’s flip-flops in publicly-expressed attitudes toward Net Neutrality.  In particular this:

Traffic prioritization allows the broadband provider to become an unwanted gatekeeper in the middle of the Internet. Because of the market power they currently employ, broadband providers have the technical ability and economic incentives to determine which packets of Internet traffic get delivered to which consumers under what conditions. The end result is that the Internet becomes shaped in ways that serve the interests of the broadband providers, and not consumers or innovative Web entrepreneurs.

has turned into this:

People get confused about Net neutrality. I want to make sure that everybody understands what we mean about it. What we mean is that if you have one data type, like video, you don’t discriminate against one person’s video in favor of another. It’s OK to discriminate across different types…There is general agreement with Verizon and Google on this issue.

Seriously, Google?  That’s pretty much the exact opposite of what you’ve been saying and arguing for.

Net Neutrality, it seems, is only worth fighting for when it’s profitable.  As soon as the time comes when Net Neutrality (or, you know, anything at all) no longer becomes profitable, Google seems to think it’s perfectly okay to switch gears with a complete reversal.  Google is no longer the scrappy underdog we all rooted for in the dotcom boom, when Microsoft was evil (and made no claims otherwise).  Google has grown to a mammoth internet behemouth able to wield huge swaths of internet real estate and tear down empires with their mighty power.  While we weren’t looking, they’ve hidden behind their “don’t be evil” slogan and made us okay with taking all our information (it’s okay because it makes search results more accurate and personalized), giving up our privacy (we don’t mind as long as we can find where we’re going), and handing over all our data to someone else (it’s so much more convenient to store our data online and access it from anywhere).  Now, they’re crowning themselves Kings of the Internet, able to rule over all that they see (which is everything), and determine what content providers or what types of content deserve special treatment and what doesn’t.  Not only that, but they’ve got us in a vice grip; like junkies, we’re addicted to their services because they work so damn well.  And Google can’t be all bad when all their applications are free (despite the millions of dollars they make shoving ads in your face).  I’d say I’m switching to Bing but even Bing can’t deliver search results that are as accurate to what I’m looking for as Google.

There’s a new meme in town.  No longer shall we say “don’t be evil”; henceforth the battle cry will be “Don’t be Google.”