Google’s public policy blog has posted a response to criticisms of their joint proposal with Verizon on Network Neutrality: Facts about our network neutrality policy proposal. It takes a heavy view of criticisms, constructing Myth strawmen (or at least glossing over the fine distinctions made by critics).
Here are their “facts:”
- Something is better than nothing. (The second fact is a repeat of this.)
- Wireless is different than wired connectivity.
- Distinguished services are sufficiently defined to preclude network bias scenarios.
- (This and the next are kind of silly to include, but for completeness:) A proposal for legislative action is not a business deal between Verizon and Google.
- A proposal for legislative action is not binding on Congress, they are still free to make it worse.
I’m going to skip those last two, for the reasons I parenthesized. As to the rest:
Something does not mean something good
It’s straightforward to recognize that inadequate protections that merely provide coverage for providers to do as they wish will be a horrible failure. And that’s what’s being proposed by Verizon and Google. It’s legless and mealymouthed, and it could actually be more harmful than that if it turns out as other flawed systems such as the US immigration policy.
Their proposal, if implemented, simply would not have teeth. Codified, it would act as an ipecac, allowing a brief sojourn from network bias only to vomit the bias back out, soiling the internet. They note that the non-discrimination provision might just evaporate, and without that, any such legislation would be a fraud.
Why I say IPN
Wireless or wired, Internet Protocol is Internet Protocol. Google will continue to fail to admit to that, and as such they want to pretend that the open-access rules they were able to get bundled with wireless spectrum auctions count for something. Those rules have yet to bear any results for consumers who, despite the “more than just two providers to choose from,” the wireless industry remains an oligopoly where consumers lack real choice or differentiation of service.
You can expect the de facto price fixing and market inefficiencies to stand firm so long as a chunk of plastic (ie, the hardware, which is more of a status symbol than anything) remains their main selling point. Until wireless becomes a dumb service where they must compete on price and performance in a brightly lit market, we will continue to suffer from another rotted industry.
And if wireless carriers can mix network bias on top of their offensive wares, that will only cement the industry to remain corrupt for the long haul (at least until wireless mesh is feasible).
Secure banking by (insert ticker symbol)
Among the differentiated services Google envisions is “a more secure banking service.” Yes. Let’s have your service provider collude with your bank, and charge you a special fee for the privilege of security. Let’s see you change your bank and ISP at the same time. Double the bureaucracy, and imagine all of the termination fees! Someone’s wet dream, to be certain.
Banking on the internet does need to become more mature and more secure. But it still needs to remain on the internet because commerce is an essential function of peoples’ liberty. Engaging in open, fair trade is absolutely necessary. This is among the ideas in any well-constructed argument for the right to internet access.
The commercial forces that have persisted for over a century have an interest in keeping us tied to them, but the internet allows those chains to be torn off, melted down, and sold to the highest bidder. And yet here comes Google proclaiming we should entrench them further. Sigh.
So that’s out, but what about their other suggestions? The other suggestions suffer the same flaw: any service that could be provided with a biased agreement with an ISP could be equally provided by another company with neutrality. That’s what regulation in a free market is: the removal of barriers to market entry that prevent competition. That’s why we have anti-trust laws, and it’s why no one should take the Verizon/Google proposal seriously, as they fail to recognize that fact repeatedly in that public document.
Okay, enough of that muck. The bottom line is this: no institution shall rule the internet.
If the internet remains useful at all, it remains open. If they want to destroy it, they can, but they cannot rule it. Ruling it would destroy it, and it would take all of their gold with it.