Yesterday, David W. asked, Why are we still fighting about net neutrality? and then posed the matter in the most straightforward way:
If you like the Internet the way it is, then you're for net neutrality. If you'd rather pay more money for less service, and have a giant company tell you what you are and aren't allowed to see, then you're against net neutrality.
That's absolutely true, and from a consumer and activist standpoint, is very plainly the case we make.
But we're not the ones in charge, and we don't have the very, very deep pockets of those giant companies who want to be able to tell us what we are and are not allowed to see. The giant companies have the upper hand in this debate almost by default. To prove that point, David was posting this in response to the news that Google Inc., AT&T Inc., and Verizon Communications Inc. executives have been holding secret meetings with the FCC to determine how to essentially kill net neutrality. They're the ones able to get into the room to have the secret meetings with the FCC.
So what happened in that room? Google sold out to Verizon. It didn't pressure the FCC to craft open Internet regulations, but cut a side deal with Verizon.
The compromise as described would restrict Verizon from selectively slowing Internet content that travels over its wires, but wouldn’t apply such limits to Internet use on mobile phones, according to the people, who asked not to be identified before an announcement.
Verizon and Google have been adversaries over the issue, known as net neutrality. Verizon was among cable and phone companies saying they need leeway over the delivery of Web content to protect performance of their networks. Google led content providers and advocacy groups that say restrictions are needed so communications companies don’t favor their own online offerings or those of partners.....
Verizon and Mountain View, California-based Google proposed in a January filing at the FCC areas of compromise for regulating Internet service providers. The companies said preserving an “open Internet” calls for “minimal interference from the government” for applications, content and services, such as Google and Twitter.
“What is good for Google and Verizon is not necessarily good for innovation and competition on the Internet,” said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior vice president of the Washington- based Media Access Project, a public-interest law firm, in an e- mailed statement today.
The FCC must “stay the course” and enact rules “that benefit everyone, not just the largest companies,” Schwartzman said.
So for Verizon and Google and all of the telecoms, an "open Internet" means open for them, with a minimum of federal regulation that benefits us, the Internet users and the people who have pay for their damned service that they want to be able to restrict. They get to decide that, apparently, because they get to be in the room with the FCC. And we're well on the way to having the telecoms decide "the future of broadband and the Internet in this country."
But as Art Brodsky writes at that link,
Whatever agreement these two big companies reach, however, is no substitute for a legally binding, comprehensive agreement in the public interest that covers not only network management but universal service and the other issues rolled up in the larger question whether the FCC even has the authority over broadband. The authority question also looms over any action the FCC might take if there is an agreement among all the parties....
There is another way, and another example in Washington. Just as the Telecom Empire uses the "leave it to Congress" dodge, so do their cousins, the Utilities, in trying to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to regulate greenhouse gases. The Utilities follow the same playbook - letters, resolutions, bills, all generated to pressure a captive and craven Congress. And it works, in large measure, as a climate bill was pulled from Senate consideration.
Except that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson decided to go ahead with her rulemaking to control those pollutants anyway. She proposed a more modest rule than might otherwise have been preferred, the EPA version of the Third Way, and went ahead with it despite the harrumphing form the Hill. The EPA didn't screw around with silly, backroom negotiations. It carried out its public interest mandate.
It can be done. It just takes some gumption, which is evident in some agencies, if not in others.
Genachowski needs to be like Lisa Jackson and fulfill his and President Obama's commitment to net neutrality, and not net neutrality as defined by the guys in the room with the closed door.
Update: Google is denying the report in the NYT (not the same story as the one above) that they've agreed to a policy that "could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege."
Google: "The NYT is quite simply wrong. We have not had any conversations with Verizon about paying for carriage of Google or YouTube traffic. We remain as committed as we always have been to an open Internet."
That's a denial of the NYT's claim (which the WSJ has confirmed), and doesn't address the Bloomberg/Businessweek story above, regarding a different policy for mobile phones.
As this story develops, one thing remains clear: These companies should not be determining Internet policy--the FCC should.