by Alan Grayson
August 19, 2010
"[Barry] Diller asserted that the
Google-Verizon proposal "doesn't preserve 'net neutrality,' full
stop, or anything like it." Asked if other media executives were
staying quiet because they stand to gain from a less open Internet,
he said simply, "Yes.""
New York Times, August 12, 2010
Verizon-Google Net Neutrality Proposal
begins by stating that,
"Google and Verizon have been working
together to find ways to preserve the open Internet."
Well, that's nice. Imagine what they would have
come up with if they had been trying to kill off the open Internet.
Actually, you don't have to imagine it. Because that's what this is. An
effort to kill off the open Internet.
Much of the coverage of the Verizon-Google Proposal has focused on only one
of the proposal's many problems:
the fact that the proposal allows wireless
broadband carriers - like, say, Verizon, for instance - to discriminate
in handling Internet traffic in any manner they choose. They can charge
content providers, they can block content providers, and they can slow
down content providers, just as they please.
That sure doesn't sound "neutral."
We've already seen examples of political censorship over mobile networks.
In 2007, Verizon refused to run a pro-choice
text message from advocacy group NARAL, due to its
supposedly 'unsavory' nature.
Yes, this happened
Yes, this kind of censorship would be
continue to be legal under the Google-Verizon deal
Yes, Google, this is evil
But the Verizon-Google Proposal allows almost as
much latitude to other internet carriers, like cable and DSL carriers.
Under the heading "Network Management," all
carriers can "engage in reasonable network management," which "includes any
technically sound practice" (which means what?).
And it specifically includes the power to,
"prioritize general classes or types of
Internet traffic, based on latency."
The term "latency" means delays in downloading,
from carrying video files and such.
So if you want video, and YouTube won't pay
Verizon to provide it, then Verizon can "prioritize" other traffic. And then
your two-minute video will take two hours to see. And let's say you want to
start a new website that offers video - good luck getting through to
Verizon's customer service department, to have Verizon place it in the right
'tier' of Verizon's internet service.
In my experience, customer service requests have
extraordinarily high "latency."
Furthermore, under the heading "Non-Discrimination Requirement" (that sounds
promising!), wireline carriers cannot engage in "undue discrimination."
What, exactly, is "due" discrimination? And even
then, the presumption of non-discrimination "could be rebutted."
And if a carrier somehow manages to run afoul of these absurdly loose
standards, the FCC doesn't even have the power to act, unless someone
actually finds out about the discrimination, complains about it, and can
prove it. And even then, the Verizon-Google Proposal limits the
penalty to $2 million.
Do you happen to know what Verizon's revenue is every 10 minutes? It's...
$2 million. That's right. The maximum fine is equal to what Verizon
takes in every 10 minutes.
Do we laugh? Or do we cry?
This would give Verizon - and every other large internet carrier - the
equivalent of a cheap "put" option on every company with an internet-based
product or service. For a mere $2 million, Verizon could secretly block (or
just mess with) the internet content of a billion-dollar company, destroying
its market value overnight. And, perhaps, sending those customers to
Verizon's rival product or service.
Now, I really would like to believe that the FCC can deliver on guaranteeing
But remember, this 'proposal' came after months
of secret, closed-door meetings with the FCC, spurred by Chairman Julius
Genachowski, that sought an industry-brokered deal along the lines of
the Verizon-Google Proposal.
And when the proposal was issued, net
neutrality's longtime ally, Commissioner Michael Copps, responded as
"Some will claim this announcement moves the
discussion forward. That's one of its many problems."
When I see our most stalwart friend on the
commission coming out against a deal shepherded by the Chairman, it doesn't
inspire confidence that the FCC can hold the line against telecom and cable
companies, when those companies have something else in mind.
Google's market capitalization is $150 billion. Verizon's is $85 billion.
They don't care about our wellbeing. Never have, never will. Even if one of
them tells us it won't "be evil."
It's time for
the FCC to step up. It's time for Congress
to step up. It's time for all of us to step up.
We need for the law to protect the internet:
No discrimination in pricing or in
No self-regulation by corporate titans
And no blessing of corrupt deals at the
And we need all citizens to engage, to be
Remember, no one in Big Business has an
interest in keeping this medium open to all of us. The only interest that
wants to keep the internet open and free, for you and me, is you and me.
So if you care about a free and open internet, uncensored by Big Business,
then look toward the horizon.
A storm is brewing. There's a hard rain coming.