To have a clear understanding around the buzz on Net Neutrality, knowing how it came about is important. Tim Wu, a professor in Columbia University first created the term “Net Neutrality” in 2003 while writing on the topic broadband distribution in a scholarly paper.
The people at Google, who have always bent over backward to avoid the “evil” tag applied to Microsoft, have apparently decided that a little evil is ok if it means control of the internet. As announced with Verizon, the policy framework they are proposing would be the first giant step toward the corporate takeover of the internet and the end of “Net Neutrality.”
Let’s backtrack a little and talk about real Net Neutrality. What this means is that internet service providers must guarantee that all websites and internet technologies are treated equally, whether it’s CNN or a grandmother who wants to blog about knitting. Neutrality allows for anyone to distribute information and media content, whether it’s a video of cats doing tricks or a personal account at the scene of a disaster. This neutrality enables anyone with a website the ability to find an audience and has served as the main reason for the explosion of internet users around the world.
The proposal put forth by Google and Verizon essentially tries to reverse the openness of the internet back to a model where ISP’s like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast as well as companies like Google can decide on a pecking order of who can distribute information and how it’s done. The size of the stakes is vast as in the very near future all video, radio, phone and other services will soon be delivered through an internet connection.
The Google and Verizon policy statement allows ISP’s to do anything they want from blocking websites to making distributors pay to have their sites available for viewing. Wired networks get the lip service of non-discrimination, but the standards are so weak that websites can be blocked as well. The proposal would split the internet into two classes with the upper class mandating paid access for content and applications while the secondary level would remain for everyone else.
ISP’s would also regulate which applications would be prioritized instead of allowing internet users to decide for themselves. If Verizon has a crummy application that is competing against one with all the bells and whistles, this model could efficiently enable Verizon to crush small competitors offering higher quality apps. This is not far removed from the big three automakers breaking small competitors in their early days.
The pact also does its best to eliminate regulation by turning the FCC into a quasi-complaints department while accurate monitoring would be relegated to a committee either controlled or made up of people from the industry. Self-regulation finds Article, in the form of “We, are professionals and we know what we’re doing” delivered the BP disaster to the Gulf. Google and Verizon are taking the same type position regarding the regulation of their proposed version of the internet.