Without net neutrality there would be no Facebook, no YouTube, no internet
giants that started in the dorm room of a couple of college kids.
Okay I take that back. Some of the ingenious and daring internet ideas that have changed the world as we know it would still exist, and possibly in the form that we now know. But quite possibly not.
Net neutrality is the principle that users should be able to access and post any
content they want, use any applications they want, and submit or receive any
type of data they want without restrictions imposed by internet service
providers, governments, or other interested parties.
It is a two-fold issue: first, the concept of controlling content. Second, the
concept of controlling data provision speeds.
Without net neutrality ISPs would be able provide more bandwidth to certain services or sites, making them appear faster-for a fee. Conversely, it would allow them to slow down access to other sites or services, such as peer-to-peer file sharing sites or video streaming sites.
Google and Verizon have been in the news in recent days over their position on
net neutrality and their proposals to the FCC in relation to net neutrality for
wireless internet. The critical issue revolves around wireless internet users
and user access.
The risk is that if net neutrality is not extended to the wireless world, then
ISPs could charge a fee for faster access-effectively making it difficult, if
not impossible, for small and medium-size enterprises targeting the mobile and wireless user community to compete with bigger players and their bigger purse strings. So much for innovation and entrepreneurship in the mobile world.
On Wednesday Alan Davidson, Google director of public policy, and Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president of public affairs, policy, and communications, posted a joint blog on the Google Public Policy page outlining their position.
Some of their proposals, such as the need for the FCC’s authority to be clearly
delineated and enforceable, are positive in my book. The importance of this came to the fore in April, when the US Court of Appeals ruled in favour of
Comcast-against the FCC in a net neutrality case. The court ruled that the FCC
lacked the power to stop cable giant Comcast from slowing traffic to a
particular file-sharing site.
But other proposals send up some pretty big red flags. In very sugar-coated
words-and using obfuscating double-negatives-the joint blog says that Google and Verizon believe that the rules that apply to fixed wireline services should not
apply to wireless services.
In other words, net neutrality is all well and good for the wired world but it should not apply to the wireless landscape.
Here is the text of the blog relating to wireless services: “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.”
It is wonderful to talk about net neutrality, but actions are louder than words.
I wonder whether Google-which started out as a dream of two college kids at
Stanford-would be the powerhouse it now is if big names in the IT and
telecommunications world had done the same to the wired internet back when it
was ‘still-nascent’ and ‘rapidly-changing’.