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Well, This Will Be Worth Watching: Google and Net Neutrality

By - December 14, 2008

Recall my interview with Vint Cerf, the guru who Google hired to champion net neutrality, among other things? Where he said this:

Here’s what (folks like Whitacre) are saying: “Well, we built this network and we can do anything we want with it. And by the way, the FCC has now essentially released us of any common carrier obligations we ever had, thank you very much, and so we can do whatever we want to and why don’t you just buzz off.”

That sort of grates a little bit. Gee, excuse me, but we don’t get a free ride at all. We spend an awful lot of money being connected to the public Internet backbone, in addition to which we pay a lot of money for our own Internet backbone that links all of our computer centers together at substantial capacity, which is necessary to do what we do.

Moreover, the subscriber has been told (by the telcos and cable ISPs) that if you pay for broadband service, you’ll get access to everywhere on the Internet. But then they’re saying, in the same breath or same paragraph anyway, “Well actually, it’s not quite like that because the places you’ll be able to get to in this broadband mode are only the ones that we’ve done business deals with. So well we’re going to shut out Google unless they pay or, you know, shut out eBay, or Amazon.”

And so this means that the subscriber’s choice has suddenly been circumscribed by what business model the people at these broadband service-providers have been able to invent. My view of their invention is that the business model seems very 20th century and very backwards looking.

Now read this from the WSJ, and this from Om. From the Journal piece:



Google Inc. has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Google has traditionally been one of the loudest advocates of equal network access for all content providers.

At risk is a principle known as network neutrality: Cable and phone companies that operate the data pipelines are supposed to treat all traffic the same — nobody is supposed to jump the line.

Oh. My.

Updated: Om says Google was not going to turn it’s back on NN and the Journal was “confused.”


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6 thoughts on “Well, This Will Be Worth Watching: Google and Net Neutrality

  1. Whether the ‘confused’ comment is legitimate or a frantic backpedal, the Internet is unfortunately going to see a serious shakeup over the next couple of years. The money’s running out, which means people are going to get more and more cutthroat in an effort to stay afloat and ahead of their competition.

    The outcome for smaller ‘net companies is pretty clear, and kind of bleak. What impact that’ll have on personal publishing and the variety of ways to exercise freedom of expression we’ve enjoyed online remains to be seen.

  2. nmw says:

    Lots of fishy things going on: Google forming a coalition with broadband providers, one of my posts to Change.GOV not going up (so I posted it at http://conversative.net/blog ;), Lessig hacked, Change.GOV’s “open for questions” closing a couple days after opening (for more on that, see http://gaggle.info/post/122/what-is-the-govern-algorithm-used-by-the-government-engine ),….

    :| nmw

  3. Tom Crowl says:

    All economic theory is essentially attempting to resolve the inherent conflict between the Individual and the Commons.

    Natural drives will impel the Individual to maximize his own benefit in relation to his fellows and this drives innovation. (Corporations currently behave and are structured as individuals.)

    And that innovation benefits the commons overall.

    However, it becomes problematic where the individual’s power allows him to deplete the commons, which may be attractive since, in the short term it will benefit him individually to greater extent than the dispersed “general” loss to the Commons overall.

    (the current financial crisis is an example but for another discussion in another place)

    The Internet is much, much more than a business tool, library service, marketing vehicle, entertainment device or proprietary network.

    THE INTERNET IS A FUNDAMENTAL LANDSCAPE FOR THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL, POLITICAL AND ULTIMATELY EVEN BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION!

    Its neutrality and availability to ALL one the same terms MUST be protected!

    Not to beat a dead horse (since it’s not dead)… but the Chagora concept which is broader than Chagora.com specifically has to do with the nature of technology, issues of scale and their relation to political/economic theory. The vital and fundamental nature of liquefying political contribution and electoral/geographic networking through a neutral, concentrated (because these functions are “Commons” functions)vehicle arose from a broader theory with additional ramifications and opportunities.

    Sort of the way Newspapers were once part of the Commons…

    Hmmmmmm….

    If there were only some way to save them!

  4. Tom Crowl says:

    P.S.
    From the underlying theory:

    The “Ultimatum Game” (behavioral economics) makes it very clear and provable that where gross unfairness in a bargain is either real or assumed, participants will endure significant loss if they believe deal agreement gives excessive benefit to another party.

    Representative Government RELIES on this bargain and it’s why they’ve had economic and social success.

    IF this bargain becomes distorted both the political and economic benefits will be lost because (in this case) ALL ends of the bargain begin to feel cheated (this one’s fascinating to explain!)

    And, for a time, Authoritarian governments will seem attractive since they can either conceal the true bargain or forcibly enforce it.

    Representative Governments have difficulties with scale (primarily related to what might be called “natural human community size” and limitations of technologies of interaction).

    If these aren’t addressed (and internal feedback loops will work against its success), the system will fail.

    SO… for long-term success… continual attention to the quality of this bargain must be maintained.

    I’d love to explain how this relates to things as diverse as health care, the immigration debate, the love-hate relationship between citizens and corporations, etc.

    Anyway, hence Chagora and attention to the technologies of Representation.

  5. There is nothing neutral about a Net where consumers who don’t want or use expensive services provided by large content creators/aggregators like Google, Microsoft, eBay, Amazon, Yahoo!, et. al. have to pay for the infrastructure that makes those companies profitable.

    These companies SHOULD be charged for the infrastructure they are demanding. Their business models must incorporate such expenses as a cost of doing business, rather than shifting the burden to ISP customers who don’t even know the new services exist and have no desire to use them.

    It’s time for people to stop yelling “Net Neutrality at any cost to the consumer!”

  6. What impact that’ll have on personal publishing and the variety of ways to exercise freedom of expression we’ve enjoyed online remains to be seen and it becomes problematic where the individual’s power allows him to deplete the commons, which may be attractive since, in the short term it will benefit him individually to greater extent than the dispersed “general” loss to the Commons overall. Then makes it very clear and provable that where gross unfairness in a bargain is either real or assumed, participants will endure significant loss if they believe deal agreement gives excessive benefit to another party. Thanks.