News Analysis: The recently announced agreement between Google and Verizon on net neutrality brings anguished accusations that the "deal" endangers the Internet, freedom of speech and free access.
Google and Verizon hadn't
even finished their press conference about net neutrality before the anguished
accusations started. Google, the complainers said, had
abandoned its principles
. The company had turned to the Dark Side. The plan
was a threat to liberty, a free Internet, and all that's good and wholesome in
Now that the plan
has been public for a few hours
, the concerns are becoming more thoughtful
and less reactive, but they persist. For some, the biggest issue is the
segregation of wireless and wire line access to the Internet. The reason given
by Google and Verizon in their press conference-that wireless is a new and
highly competitive technology-doesn't sit well with many people or with many
public interest groups. Just how restrictive would the wireless Internet be?
The second area of concern is
the provision in the Google-Verizon proposal that would allow networks to provide
their own premium content
that's not part of the open Internet. Critics
wonder, Would this create three Internets? Would there be the traditional
Internet, the more restrictive wireless internet and a closed commercial Internet
as well? And if there's a closed commercial Internet, what would happen to the
open Internet? Would it wither away?
Tanya Snyder, DC Editor for Pacifica Radio's Free Speech Radio News
the concerns of the public interest groups she covers. Their fear is that some
people will be treated differently from others. Right now, she said, "The
Internet is a level playing field." She said that this issue is especially
important for what Snyder calls "marginalized voices" such as people
of color, or people with progressive political views. She said that these
groups fear there will be a fast lane on the Internet for those who can pay and
a slow lane for everyone else.
There's also the part about
passing only legal content on the Internet, and about network management on the
Internet. Concerns about legal content have been voiced by the Electronic
Frontier Foundation, which asks, What constitutes legal? While I haven't heard
anyone proposing that content that sexually exploits children should be allowed
on the Internet, there are legitimate questions about copyrighted material and
Would network providers be
able to block downloading of copyrighted material when its ultimate use is
allowed by Fair Use provisions of the copyright law? Or what about material
that's legal in one jurisdiction but not in another? Would Christian religious
sites be shut down because such material is illegal in some Muslim nations?
Where is the line here?
Network management is a
little different because it can mean a lot of things. From a technical
standpoint, there needs to be some management for a network to be used
effectively, but what constitutes proper management? Could a network provider
block content from outside because it was concerned about bandwidth demands?
Remember, this is the issue that got Comcast in trouble with the FCC, whose
regulatory action was later overturned by the courts.