September 3, 2010 by Dan Patton
Don’t Be Evil! Don’t Sell Out! Google Sucks!
Those are a few of the headlines leveled against Google and Verizon’s two-headed “Joint Proposal” of “suggested legislative framework” for net neutrality that was recently unveiled in Google’s “Public Policy Blog”. Evidently, the motion got moving when the two companies “challenged each other to craft a balanced policy framework” that preserves everything good about the internet.
Oh, those multi-billion dollar publicly traded US companies and their contests of civic do-goodery.
Assuming the tone of The US Constitution, the Google / Verizon statement declares, “It is imperative that we find ways to protect the future openness of the Internet”. Then it offers several recommendations that allegedly reduce the public’s power to do anything but pay more money to Google and Verizon. This would happen by creating two tiers of online content delivery: one that goes fast and one that sucks. Guess which one’s free.
How the proposal might affect advertising is still anyone’s guess. When the government created cable television, commercials momentarily disappeared altogether because, you know, TV shows don’t need sponsors if the consumer’s already paying for them. But once the viewing public forgot about the days of “free tv,” the commercials gradually reappeared and now nobody cares if a mini-network star violates the lower right-hand portion of the screen in the middle of Shark Week.
Not surprisingly, online response has been vicious. The Huffington Post calls the proposal, “The end of the internet as we know it.” PC World compares it to, “inviting Al Qaeda, North Korea and Iran to work out a plan for defending the nation”. I like the gangster / protection analogy. It’s like Google and Verizon come walking right into our pizza parlor and offer to provide us with a service that we neither requested nor need — I mean, the internet works fine for me and —
Wait. Is that a gun you’re holding?
Sadly, the scheme follows so many US traditions that it would take a gigantic search engine to list them all.
One that most often comes to mind is the fate of the Colorado River. Until roughly a hundred years ago, it nurtured one of the world’s greatest wetlands and a number of thriving cultures on its flow into Mexico. Then we dammed it all to facilitate commercial farming, population growth and the creation of Lakes Mead, Powell and Havasu. The resulting two-tiered delivery system gave the US an endless supply of cheap water and countless hours of Girls Gone Wild. Mexico got a desert.
But there is hope. An even older tradition dating back to the late English Renaissance allows information seekers the freedom they desire while simultaneously confounding the Google / Verizon pact to abduct the world’s supply of knowledge. It’s called the Public Library system. It rents books and CDs and DVDs and internet access for free, and the people who run it go at the same pace for everybody. Best of all, when you view the content, there’s no dancing clip art or spastic interest rates flashing in your eyes.
And since the Public Library system is part of US Public Policy, Google and Verizon cannot affect it.