It has a long history in the fight for a free Internet and has been treated in a very shabby manner by some people in this community who don't know the history and frankly are sometimes very confused by the technology and don't really understand net neutrality.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt understands this. As he said while speaking about the Google Verizon meeting last week:
"People get confused about Net neutrality," Schmidt said. "I want to make sure that everybody understands what we mean about it. What we mean is that if you have one data type, like video, you don't discriminate against one person's video in favor of another. It's OK to discriminate across different types...There is general agreement with Verizon and Google on this issue. The issues of wireless versus wireline get very messy...and that's really an FCC issue not a Google issue."
One of those confused people is the very Josh Silver, the executive director of Free Press, that has been spearheading this critque of Google before the facts. Friday, on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now, Josh Silver said:
So if, let’s say, that your Verizon provider is blocking or slowing down traffic, and you don’t like it, you don’t really have a choice. That’s problem number one. Number two, you know, losing net neutrality then allows these companies to prioritize some traffic—video, say—and de-prioritize others, and then what effectively happens is the internet becomes like cable television, where Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner Cable decide what’s fast, what’s—how much it costs, and who’s slow.
Eric Schmidt is right and Josh Silver shows that he doesn't understand the rights he seeks to defend. I have to support Schmidt and oppose Silver because I like watching Countdown on the Internet, on my own schedule and, for now, without commercials and if real-time data packets aren't given priority over say email packets, you can kiss applications that require data in real time, such as video and interactive games, goodbye.
This question of what 'net neutrality really involves is so important to the discussion that I want to break it down even more for the non-technical by way of analogy, so let's take a ride on Josh Silver's Railroad.
The railroad system is a lot like the Internet and I believe at one time there actually was a problem with the big RR barons making and breaking companies by favoring this ones freight over that ones. Hence the need for Railroad Neutrality. Now normally that would mean that every company's cars are treated the same, not that freight cars and passengers cars are given the same priority. Not So on Josh Silver's Railroad! In Josh Silver's brand of Railroad Neutrality all railroad cars are treated the same. Sometimes the coal cars have to wait days while the passenger cars go, sometimes the passengers have to wait days while the coal cars go and sometimes the milk spoils. Welcome to the Josh Silver Railroad.
As I said in a comment I posted on this question last week:
Google, along with Red Hat, and a few other large Open Source companies [along with Linux and other user groups, Open Source standards organizations and frankly too many community members to list here] have been fighting for open standards and freedom on the Internet, of which net neutrality is but a part, with the big proprietary software companies like Microsoft, hardware companies such as Intel and IBM and the telecoms for well over a decade. This has involved a lot of meetings, discussions, industry standards boards etc. These have all been 'secret' as far as the average Daily Kos reader has knowledge, but the Internet would already be a much more 'private' place without their intervention.
I was there and saw all. I started Linux Users, Los Angeles [LULA] in 1996 and was it's president for 8 years. In the late '90s I put Red Hat Linux on a hard drive and sold it as an easier to install version known as Linux On A Disk. I never paid Red Hat a dime for their software. Not only did Red Hat not sue me, they had no cause under the terms of the GPL, they recommended my product to customers that found their's too difficult to install, and when they went public they gave me a taste - they gave a lot of people in the community a taste [ as did Google, I might add, with their IPO ] in their "friends and family" program. Mandrake Soft, Novell SUSE, Calera and many others all use the Red Hat Package Management System [RPM] without charge. They all work co-operatively to develop their software and they share everything. When you can wrap your mind around this kind of business model you can begin to understand open source and the Google outlook.
Google entered talks with Verizon only after the courts ruled that the FCC could not enforce net neutrality. From TV Broadcast News:
The talks come after the FCC was stymied in its effort to reclassify broadband services as a common carrier, which would have given the commission more leeway in regulating how network operators conduct their business.
Do people here have a problem with Google fighting to establish net neutrality as an industry standard when the FCC is doing nothing?
I first met Google at the Linux Expo held at Duke U. and hosted by Red Hat Software in 1998. At the time Red Hat had 14 people and was looking to hire 20 more and Google was still two guys running a search engine from their dorm room.
From this close observer, I can tell you that the Open Source movement, including Google, has fought long and hard for a place at the table. It would seem that Google is now suspect for even sitting at the table.
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