There is a heated debate emerging over the proposal by Google and Verizon over how net neutrality issues should be handled going forward. The proposal outlines several ways in which the Internet can be governed to ostensibly help deliver a better experience to Web users.
Those in support of what Google and Verizon announced say that it makes some sense. They believe that both companies are looking out for the best interests of users, and the proposal is in no way nefarious.
Critics couldn't disagree more with supporters. They say that Google has effectively "sold out" Web users and those who support keeping a level playing field for Internet access. They believe supporters of the net neutrality proposal are putting an inordinate amount of trust in two companies that have a vested interest in staying dominant.
Regardless of the side of the debate one falls on, it's hard to debate that there are some blatantly scary things in the proposal. And although the abstract of the proposal seems innocuous, a further look at the companies' detailed plans reveals several concerning elements that could have a measurable negative impact on all stakeholders.
Let's take a look at some of the things that should scare Web users about Google and Verizon's net neutrality proposal.
1. It makes Google stronger
There's little debating that if the proposal that was drawn up by Google and Verizon becomes the law of the land, it would help the search giant immensely. The full description of the plan allows for preferential treatment being given to certain services by ISPs. The basic description in the document says that prioritization of Web traffic "would be presumed inconsistent with the non-discrimination standard." But Google and Verizon follow that up with a clause that says, "Other additional or differentiated services ... could include traffic prioritization." One of those "differentiated services" could include video-a key aspect of Google's business. In essence, Google and Verizon are giving ISPs a wide opening to offer preferential treatment for certain types of Web traffic. And in most cases, that will only help the search giant.
2. ISPs couldn't be happier
If the net neutrality proposal drafted by Google and Verizon becomes a regulation, ISPs will benefit heavily. Not only would they have all the control in the marketplace, but they would also be able to potentially generate more revenue, since they could conceivably charge more for better service. ISPs might not be as bad as some critics say, but giving them more power doesn't seem all that beneficial to the average Web user.
3. The big companies benefit most
It's hard to see where Google and Verizon's proposal helps small companies. Because it allows ISPs to have a proverbial "toll road" on the Internet, it gives companies with big budgets or backing from venture capitalists the ability to provide a better service. Small startups won't have that luxury and would conceivably deliver a less ideal experience. Google and Verizon say the Web shouldn't be a place where ISPs can "discriminate against" applications or services. But then it sets a high legal bar to prove discrimination. In order for discrimination to occur on the Internet, they wrote in the proposal, affected companies must be able to prove "meaningful harm." Even better, Google doesn't want the FCC to decide what makes harm "meaningful." So, evidently, the company would allow those committing the harm against small sites or services to decide if it's really meaningful. Does that sound fair?
4. Anything goes on wireless networks
Wireless networks are kept out of the so-called protections Google is offering to the Internet. By leaving wireless networks out, it gives all the power to the service provider to do what it wants, when it wants on those networks. That might not be a major problem right now, but there's little debating that wireless access will guide the future of the industry. If more and more people start accessing networks over WiFi and they are being totally controlled by ISPs, a troubling scenario could ensue.