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Google denies selling out, defends net neutrality pact with Verizon

video: "Keeping the Internet Awesome" by Google's telecom policy counsel, Rick Whitt, January 2010

Google responded Thursday to heavy criticism of its agreement with Verizon Communications, saying it compromised in order to move the ball forward on a net neutrality law because it appears the Federal Communications Commission had lost its ability to be an adequate watchdog.

In a blog post titled “Facts About Our Net Neutrality Policy Proposal,” Google’s senior media and telecom counsel, Rick Whitt, attempted to debunk five “myths” the company said have been circulating since the firm announced its legislative blueprint with Verizon on so-called net neutrality rules.

First, Whitt said Google did not "sell out" on net neutralty -- the principle that all Web content should be accessed equally by consumers.

“We’re not saying this solution is perfect, but we believe that a proposal that locks in key enforceable protections for consumers is preferable to no protection at all,” said Whitt, one of the most vocal proponents in recent years of broad net neutrality rules at the FCC.

Public interest groups disagreed. They have slammed the proposal by Google and Verizon, saying the deal could allow carriers to give preference to some applications and block others on wireless networks. said it is planning a protest at Google's Mountain View campus Friday at noon. And the groups disagreed with Whitt's assertion that the wireless industry was competitive enough to police itself and didn't need open access rules.

Whitt defended a proposal for specialized managed services that could be used for better quality channels for gaming, banking and telemedicine, for example.

Public interest groups and some startups complained the provision could allow the wealthiest Web firms to buy up capacity on networks that would edge out new competitors. That would leave consumers with an Internet similar to the cable television model of bundled channels, they said.

"Google's latest response is yet another layer of lipstick on the pig," said Derek Turner, policy director of public interest group Free Press. "While we agree the perfect should not be the enemy of the good, the terrible should be, and their deal with Verizon is simply terrible for the future of the open Internet.

Free Press and two dozen other public interest groups sent a letter to the FCC, saying commissioners needed to assert their authority to regulate broadband providers. They urged the FCC to ignore the Google-Verizon framework.

And they said Google's plan undermines the agency's ability to make policy, giving it limited powers. Google and Verizon proposed the FCC act more like an enforcement agency that can slap fines of as much as $2 million on "bad actors."

But Whitt said recent events have hobbled the FCC’s ability to carry out rules that prevent network carriers from blocking or slowing traffic. The FCC’s loss to Comcast in a federal appeals court undercut the agency’s authority as a broadband industry watchdog.

He also alluded to increased political pressure against those rules and the company’s sense of urgency to push forward on a narrow law, even if that meant walking back on goals for rules to apply to wireless networks. When FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced his policy proposal for net neutrality last September, he received more than six dozen letters from Democratic lawmakers rebuking him for the move, which they said was over-reaching.

“But given political realities, this particular issue has been intractable in Washington for several years now,” Whitt wrote. “At this time there are no enforceable protections – at the Federal Communications Commission or anywhere else – against even the worst forms of carrier discrimination against Internet traffic.”

Contrary to news reports, as in Post Tech, Whitt said the agreement was not about Android and Google’s business ties to Verizon Wireless. And he said the companies had signaled closer agreement on wireless issues over recent months and that the firm felt it was fine to let go of rules for mobile networks because that industry was competitive.

“This is a policy proposal – not a business deal,” Whitt said. “Of course, Google has a close business relationship with Verizon, but ultimately this proposal has nothing to do with Android.”

By Cecelia Kang  |  August 12, 2010; 2:51 PM ET
Categories:  Broadband , FCC , Google , Net Neutrality , Verizon  
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Google did sell out net neutrality. Time for creative civil disobedience.

Posted by: revbookburn | August 12, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Collusion… plain and simple. How can two corporate giant like GOOGLE and Verizon just arbitrarily decide that people need to pay to use the Internet and what those fees should be?

Posted by: oda155 | August 12, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Google favors net neutrality for wired networks, which are usually installed at the expense of the network providers.

Yet they think providers should be able to favor their own content on wireless networks that use the public airwaves?

Since those radio waves pass through everyone, potentially causing interference with other nearby radio frequencies, those networks should be at least as open as wired networks.

Net neutrality should apply to all providers equally. Favoring newer technologies by allowing them to lock in customers to their content is an unfair competitive advantage. I'm extremely surprised to see Google take this position.

Posted by: bkvam | August 12, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Google can stop the media blitz. It's too late, they have lost all creditability. Do no evil, became be evil and greedy.

Internet users who access the internet are already paying for the infrastructure that the Verizons and ATT laid. It's called your cable/Internet bill.

This is just a creative way for the telecom companies to make more profit for their do-nothing share holders.

The user already decides how fast they reach content and what content they want to reach.

Online games already have paid service providers for the large pipes needed for their customers to reach their servers. You think WoW has the same internet speed I do? Hardly!

I even have the option of paying more to upload/download faster regardless of site.

Google, you've lost my respect and my support. I've already removed your toolbar and deleted my gmail acct. As must as I hate Microsoft (mainly because i can't stand thieves) Bing works fine for me.

Posted by: ag1976 | August 12, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Next week we'll be seeing Google trying to protect its image. Google has caught the BP virus of corporate corruptus manifestus. From now on it will be proclaiming how public minded and non-profit driven it is. Google the beneficent!

Posted by: TeddyRoosevelt | August 12, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Google is run by weasels- and on net neutrality- POP goes the weasels.

Posted by: maxtor0 | August 12, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

The internet has been an amazing tool that keeps getting better. This so called 'proposal' will only benefit corporations, not the consumers. To say that privatizing the internet is good for consumers is completely ridiculous and driven by profit margins and greed. Google is the shiz, but this proposal is just scary considering how much google has pushed open source software over the years. My feeling is, if it ain't broke, why fix it?

Posted by: BMACattack | August 12, 2010 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Google can run, but it can't hide.

Posted by: mtravali | August 12, 2010 8:49 PM | Report abuse

What is the best alternative to Google?

Posted by: gkam | August 12, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

What is the best alternative to Google?


Posted by: mtravali | August 12, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

I use Ixquick and scroogle. Ixquick is actually a bit slow but it's fine. No tracking. I use google sporadicly if I don't find the info I need. That's all. There are enough services out there to not get hooked only on google. It's the only way to send them the message. I canceled my gmail account since December and took google's tool bar down in January. I don't miss them at all. NOT AT ALL.

Life goes on with or without google. It's a matter of committing to make a statement and stick to it.

Posted by: coqui44 | August 12, 2010 9:13 PM | Report abuse

The video is idiotic and the defense of the Google/Verizon deal is absolutely idiotic.

On hearing this, I exactly feel like the jet blue flight attendant - I want to grab a beer, give my 2 cents on a public address system, and slide down the escape chute.

Hit google on the bottomline - don't use Google and don't use Android, and android isn't good enough any ways.

Posted by: dgray | August 12, 2010 10:27 PM | Report abuse

I was surprised and disappointed by Google's pact with Verizon when I first read it. However, the more I think about it, the more I've come to think that Google's position isn't as outlandish as it sounds. In a lot of countries, "net neutrality" isn't an issue because regulators have teeth, and forced the unbundling of local copper loops. As a result, consumers in France can choose from about 3 major broadband providers (and several smaller ones), and pay about $40/month for triple play service. (Hardly anyone pays as much for broadband as we do.)

In the US, if we're lucky, we can choose between two broadband providers—the cable company, and the phone company. These providers obvious reasons to oppose network neutrality. Both are pushing voice and video services over their networks, in addition to broadband Internet access. "Over-the-top" voice service providers like Skype and Vonage, and video providers like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Apple, compete directly with these service offerings. Consequently, cable companies and phone companies have a clear incentive to mess with competitors' data packets. Since consumers have little choice but to choose cable or telco internet access, and both have the exact same incentive to discriminate against certain types of traffic, net neutrality is especially important for fixed broadband access. I don't trust Verizon any further than I can drop kick Ivan Seidenberg (ditto for Comcast and Brian Roberts).

The mobile market is genuinely more competitive than the fixed broadband market. In most major cities, consumers can choose between 4 national service providers, as well as a host of resellers with differing service packages (e.g., I've got a voice calling plan marketed by Walmart that is way cheaper than anything offered by the big 4). It's instructive to track what happened with mobile service pricing in the US (and globally) after regulators licensed a third and fourth mobile operator. Prices plummeted from about $100 a month to under $50 per month—while minute of use soared (see Two service providers were able to maintain oligopolistic pricing. Four operators, with widely differing market shares, created meaningful competition. As long as we have 4 viable mobile operators (yeah, Sprint's not doing so great), there is reason to believe that if one mobile operator starts messing with popular services, consumers can defect to another service provider. In fact, the best guarantee of mobile net neutrality may be policies regulating mobile operators' abusive 2-year contracts and early termination fees.

Sorry 'bout the long essay. I got carried away. Carry on.

Posted by: severinus | August 12, 2010 10:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm incredibly disappointed in Google's collusion with Verizon. If this is Google's latest attempt to push public policy in its favor, it failed miserably and seriously tarnished its reputation as a defender of the common good. Google couldn't have picked a worst bedfellow than Verizon. Do no evil? More like "Do kinda good."

Posted by: tristesse27 | August 13, 2010 5:29 AM | Report abuse

VeriGoogle: Just give us Czechoslovakia and we're done. We have no plans for Poland.

Posted by: gannon_dick | August 14, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

The Net Neutrality Debate, Round 2

The debate over net neutrality - over the "right" to equal wireless broadband access - has touched a lot of emotions, it seems. But stepping back from that a moment, would it be more economically beneficial to impose net neutrality on wireless carriers or to exempt them from such regulations? On one hand, would wireless carriers be more inclined to extend and improve their infrastructure if they could charge tiered rates?

On the other hand, would tiered-rate policies prevent the next generation of YouTubes, Twitters, Facebooks, or Googles? If innovative upstarts can't afford to pay what the established firms do to deliver their services to consumers, will those innovative start-ups be dead in the water? That would be a grand disservice especially as, I've said before, such flexible, garage- and basement-founded companies are a big part of America's economic future.

Posted by: MyAIC | August 16, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

As usual, Cecilia Kang - Google's reporter at the post - posts her patron's material without analysis or criticism.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | August 17, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Despite Google’s attempt last Thursday to more fully explain this week’s joint proposal with Verizon, the priorities and beliefs of both companies that this is merely “policy proposal—not a business deal” are off-base. What Google and Verizon are can simply be explained as a pure business deal—one that makes sense from their perspective, but is rather short-sighted given the many advances in the social Web that now give consumers almost all of the control when it comes to the type of content they access, when and how fast they access that content and from what services and providers it is delivered.
We cannot simply turn back the clock on the Internet and magically rebuild a system whereby some websites, broadband access and types of content are given artificial priority over others.

The Web has morphed into an ecosystem where most consumers and businesses already give priority (often without acknowledging doing so) to great content easily found via other avenues outside of Google or even one ISP or broadband provider. Ultimately, the social Web will win—no matter how the pipes are controlled—and consumers will continue to have the upper hand in dictating which types of content they access and from where.

Jon Goldman

Posted by: JonGoldman | August 17, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

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