I hate to touch on this again, but I felt I really needed to stick my opinion on Google’s latest statement regarding their policy on net neutrality up on here. It seems like some misinformation and panic is being spread around simply because… well, it’s the internet.
Before reading this post you might want to go back a bit and read this one.
Anyway, a friend of mine on Facebook posted this link from a blog. It is a panic piece about how Google’s latest decision is essentially decimating net neutrality. It goes on about how Google is going back on all of their older policies, all the while showing non-related images that aren’t really labeled as such. It’s full of misinformation and tries to skew a lot of facts. I know this will probably become a hot topic not just with my friends but around the internet in general, so I thought it was worth “replying” to this blog.
First of all…
Imagine a world where you can’t use your electric stove because stoves are placed in a tier that is 50% more than the standard rate, to the point where cooking every day becomes cost-prohibitive. Tiers for your stove, your microwave, your dishwasher, your electric toothbrush, your alarm clock, your plug-in vehicle, and more. Your bill becomes increasingly frustrating, and increasingly expensive.
Google & Verizon would like to do this to your Internet.
Nowhere in the proposed legislation nor in Google’s public policy is anything mentioned about this, nor is any of it even hinting at it. In fact, it specifically speaks against it:
A broadband Internet access service provider would be prohibited from
preventing users of its broadband Internet access service from–
(1) sending and receiving lawful content of their choice;
(2) running lawful applications and using lawful services of their choice; and
(3) connecting their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network or
service, facilitate theft of service, or harm other users of the service.
While singling out “lawful applications” might cause some to panic this is no different from the terms of service you sign with your ISP. Obviously a corporation wants to protect themselves from getting sued for something you are doing. This isn’t anything new and is their legal right — I doubt anyone will really argue against this.
The article continues to go on, saying that Google and Verizon are bringing us to a brave new world (briefly linking to an Ars Technica article that parrots the same points).
Where the article goes horribly wrong is its take on a certain part of the legislative plan. It quotes a bit about “additional online services” and makes a judgment on it. The rest of the article has to do with this little quote, and admittedly the bit that they do quote looks quite foreboding:
Additional Online Services: A provider that offers a broadband Internet access service complying with the above principles could offer any other additional or differentiated services. Such other services would have to be distinguishable in scope and purpose from broadband Internet access service, but could make use of or access Internet content, applications or services and could include traffic prioritization.
There’s only one slight problem here. They carefully admit the last part of this little snippet. Unsurprisingly, this bit changes everything and nullifies most of the argument that takes up the rest of the blog:
The FCC would publish an annual report on the effect of these additional services, and immediately report if it finds at any time that these services threaten the meaningful availability of broadband Internet access services or have been devised or promoted in a manner designed to evade these consumer protections.
Suddenly, things don’t look too terrible. Google (and Verizon) are basically saying that they would like for the ability to prioritize traffic for some specific applications to be developed in the future (Google mentions innovations and the idea of a health network), but that they are willing to be transparent about them. People are terrified that this is a huge loophole… except that the last part of the quoted document specifically mentions that if this is used as a loophole then the FCC will take action “immediately.” Not to mention it is hard to be evil when you have to be quite public about it.
Now, am I saying that we shouldn’t be keeping a close eye on Google and Verizon and that we shouldn’t be skeptical of this legislation? No. I’m just saying that this panic is absolutely silly. Google didn’t take a 180 here and net neutrality is not currently being assaulted by them. Put down the pitchforks and make sure you read the material for yourself — just don’t take what a blog says to be true! Do your own research.
Google’s public policy blog: http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/
Also this isn’t today’s article. It is just something I wanted to briefly touch on. Today’s stuff will probably come later today. I promise it won’t be about Google. 😉