"The enemy of my enemy is my friend" is certainly a formula that can be applied to Google and Verizon Wireless' approach to the Federal Communications Commission on network neutrality, the rules that prescribe that Internet providers treat all data equally. This is the specter that hovers over any company trafficking in digital data.
Google and Verizon Friday sent the FCC this nine-page document, along with separate documents that highlight the similarities and differences in their positions:
You can read those nine pages (or the more than 200 that Google and Verizon filed separately) until you fall asleep. This sums up the companies' reason for filing a document together, plus separately:
"We committed to engage on important policy issues that underlie the debate and suggested that, because our businesses rely on each other, it is appropriate for us to jointly discuss a number of things: how we ensure that consumers get the information, products and services they want online; encourage investment in advanced networks; and ensure the openness of the web around the world. Today, each of us has filed separately in this docket on our individual views of the statutory authority and empirical basis for the FCC to take specific actions as noticed in its proposed rulemaking. We continue to disagree on some of these matters."
How the FCC will rule is so crucial to these companies. Sure, Google and Verizon are partners along with Motorola on the successful Droid smartphone, but this goes beyond that to the network data pipes and how they are managed, what data can be exchanged to whom, what and where.
Google wants these pipes unfettered and therefore favors the liberal network neutrality practices FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has ordered. Google sees current broadband networks as
"the result of government-sanctioned monopolies, the grant of public benefits and their attendant enormous market advantages and economies of scale, scope and ubiquity."
Ironically, Verizon argues from its position as the No. 1 U.S. wireless carrier company that has enjoyed control over consumer data traversing its pipes that:
"Dominant Internet incumbents such as Google are among the strongest proponents of net neutrality rules - their incentive is to lock in place through regulation advantages they have established for themselves based on today's predominant business models."
So you see the obvious stickiness here. Verizon, which Google sees as a legal monopoly, fears Google is trying to become a legal monopoly.
Google and Verizon also clash on other fronts. Google sparred with Verizon over 700MHz wireless spectrum in 2008, and Verizon makes Microsoft Bing its default search engine
on the Droid non-Android platforms, such as RIM's BlackBerry.
The FCC through its legislative authority has the ability to control the data flow of Google's Web services through computers and the handsets Verizon offers to consumers. In the broader scope, Google and Verizon see the FCC as the pile of rubble on their road to Data Mountain.
That's why Google and Verizon are lobbying the government separately, as well as together. It's complicated, but practical for their businesses. How this unfolds in 2010 will be exciting to watch.