Bloggers across the internet are suggesting that Google has replaced its corporate logo of “Do no evil” with the somewhat more ominous “Do no evil on wireline.” It comes in response to the announcement by Google and Verizon that they envision a two-tiered internet for the future, where ISPs (such as Verizon) could offer their clients “premium Internet bundles” for a price. In many ways it’s like network television versus cable: sure you can watch Law and Order for free, but if you want to watch Entourage, you have to pay for it.
The proposal begins with the reassuring statement that, “For the first time, wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition.”
The key word, however, is “wireline.” When it comes to wireless, the future of the internet, there will be “fast lanes” for preferred content. As the press release says, “Our proposal would allow broadband providers to offer additional, differentiated online services, in addition to the internet access and video services (such as Verizon’s Fios TV) offered today.” In other words, you can have what you already have, but any new services will cost you.
Observers are startled by the decision, saying that it raises more questions than it answers. What protections will there be for wireless users? What would ensure that ISPs don’t block apps or services that they don’t like? How long will anything good continue to be offered on the public internet? Why are two companies, big and powerful as they may be, suddenly determining the future of the internet for everyone?
What is likely to become the most outspoken opponent of the new Google-Verizon deal is a coalition of progressive political groups that have used the internet as their primary platform to get the message across.
SavetheInternet.com brings together a vast coalition, ranging from Gun Owners of America to Moveon.org and from the Christian Coalition to the SEIU (see the complete list here. They write that if the plan goes through, “Innovation would be stifled, competition limited, and access to information restricted. Consumer choice and the free market would be sacrificed to the interests of a few corporations” because it would allow the nation’s largest telephone and cable companies to become “the Internet’s new gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won’t load at all.”
They are not the only people opposed to the new proposals. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps wrote that, “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.”
Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt counters that, “In developing this framework, we were guided by two principles: our commitment to an open Internet, and the need for continued investment in broadband infrastructure, which is critical to U.S. global competitiveness.” In order for companies such as his to invest in broadband and thereby make the country more competitive, they must make a profit doing so. Putting toll booths on the Internet is one way to do that. Dan Gilmour is more skeptical. He writes that “The game is on to create a parallel Internet.”
Government (represented by the FCC) and grassroots groups seem to have decided to take on the mega-corporations, but they are doing it in cyberspace. It’s a fight that could make World of Warcraft look like a bird watching expedition in the park.
Read more at Wired.