Google responds to charges of selling out on net neutrality

13 Aug 2010

We have not “sold out”, says Google, amidst accusations that its proposed partnership with US carrier Verizon to exempt wireless internet traffic from a ban on prioritisation of internet traffic, including paid prioritisation, is unfair.

Google’s unofficial ‘Don’t be evil,” slogan was called into question this week when it stated on its public policy blog: “… we both recognize that wireless broadband is different from the traditional wireline world, in part because the mobile marketplace is more competitive and changing rapidly. In recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace, under this proposal we would not now apply most of the wireline principles to wireless, except for the transparency requirement.”

This proposed partnership was counterintuitive to many who felt that as Google was part of the Open Internet Coalition it had “sold out” by defining wireless internet access as both different and exempt for fixed line access as wireless grows as the primary means of internet access globally and is seen as the solution to “the last mile” when fixed line cannot provide.

Google sais that while it did not expect everyone to agree with this proposal it wanted to address “a number of inaccuracies about it”.

“Google has been the leading corporate voice on the issue of network neutrality over the past five years. No other company is working as tirelessly for an open internet.

“But given political realities, this particular issue has been intractable in Washington for several years now. At this time there are no enforceable protections – at the Federal Communications Commission or anywhere else – against even the worst forms of carrier discrimination against Internet traffic,” said Richard Whitt, Washington Telecom and Media Counsel, on the Google public policy blog.

Whitt went on to say that this proposal would not lead to “cannibalisation” of the internet by broadband providers but rather was intended to allow them to provide specialised services such as a special gaming channel or secure banking service.

“The chief challenge is to let consumers benefit from these non-Internet services, without allowing them to impede on the Internet itself,” added Whitt.

More talk was centred around the possibility that this joint initiative was intended to bring Android to the fore. The response? “This is a policy proposal – not a business deal. Of course, Google has a close business relationship with Verizon, but ultimately this proposal has nothing to do with Android,” said Whitt in defence.

He finished by adding that he hoped the blog post had helped clear things up but this is only the beginning of a huge debate on the open internet and net neutrality as more and more video and data heavy traffic continues to eat up bandwidth into the future.