Google Enlists Its Own for Net Neutrality Fight

By Ben Charny  |  Posted 2006-06-08

Google's the latest leading Internet concern to turn to its consumers for help in the fight over net neutrality.

Loosely-defined, net neutrality guarantees that Internet users have unfettered access to any Internet application or service.

Next week, both the U.S. Congress and Senate will address the issue via a vote on pending legislation and an important committee hearing.

In the meantime, Google's asking consumers to phone their elected representatives, and sign two online petitions, It'sOurNet and Save the

"Creativity, innovation and a free and open marketplace are all at stake in this fight," Google CEO Eric Schmidt wrote in an open letter to Google users. The letter was included in a June 7 Google blog item that reads more like marching orders.

By trying to whip up a good, old-fashioned grassroots frenzy, Google's proving once again how the net neutrality debate, like the politics shaping the issue, makes for strange bedfellows indeed.

Google and Microsoft, usually bitter enemies, find themselves on the same side of the aisle on this issue.

Also, eBay, another of Google's supposed competitors, is rallying its troops as well. Chief Executive Meg Whitman has sent e-mails to a million eBay consumers asking them to contact their local reps to make their voices hear. There are scores of other major Internet firms taking the same actions as eBay, Google and Microsoft.

Broadband providers, namely the major U.S. telephone and cable operators, say the fight over net neutrality is overblown. What they merely want to do is create a kind of toll lane, where companies would pay for a speedier delivery of their features.

They say they have no intention of blocking or slowing down any features from firms not willing to pay up.

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