Google-Verizon: The end of the net as we know it

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Google, a company that I’ve long admired and currently hold thousands of dollars of stock in, just ‘went evil.’ Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, via the Huffington Post.

Wikileaks is great isn’t it? A humble internet project which manages to deal a large blow to concentrated centers of power thus promoting greater openness and democracy. Well you can forget about Wikileaks, and perhaps many of the blogs, websites and applications you use, if Google and Verizon get their way.

Google and Verizon’s recently announced plan for an “Open Internet” is an effort that will open the floodgates to much greater corporate and government control over internet content. Although “Open Internet” sounds very nice, it smacks of doublespeak that would have George Orwell turning in his grave. The plan outlines seven proposals which Google and Verizon claim will ensure that certain internet traffic is prioritized over others by Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Firstly, it should be made clear that the plan only applies to “internet anywhere” wireless networks (that Verizon conveniently owns huge parts of). It doesn’t apply to fixed-line networks which Google maintain they are still in favor of keeping equal access to, safe in the knowledge that there’s no further money to be made from it because the fixed-line networks and bandwidths have reached their limits. It does not apply to mobile networks as yet either. The big money is now in “internet anywhere” wireless networks – which is why Google and Verizon are trying to shore it up – and what happens with it will undoubtedly have a huge knock-on the freedom of both fixed-line and mobile internet.

What it means for wireless consumers is that they will have to pay more for certain content than others. So for example, if you want to watch video which requires more bandwidth than just surfing pages on the net, you’ll have to pay your ISP more in order to do so. So you can kiss YouTube goodbye if you can’t afford what your ISP are charging for a video enabled service. Or, let’s say you really like using Spotify. Well forget that too unless you’re willing to pay for a streaming enabled account.

And what if your ISP decides to ignore these rules in the spirit of openness that the internet is currently based on? Well they will be subject to a penalty of $2m. No problem for giants like Verizon and AT&T to pay but probably enough to bankrupt a small provider that’s determined to operate an open service. Certainly enough to bankrupt a small provider that might dare to allow access to something like Wikileaks. The FCC is controlled by the US government and it doesn’t take a genius to see where this is leading – more suppression of dissent and criticism of US government actions.

According to Joel Kelsey of public policy group Free Press, what the proposals amount to is corporate control of the internet. He told the BBC:

It would give companies like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T the right to decide which content will move fast and which should be slowed down. If codified, this arrangement will lead to toll booths on the information superhighway. It will lead to outright blocking of applications and content on increasingly popular wireless platforms.

The Open Internet plan means that in the stroke of a Senator’s pen, the internet will suddenly become as class ridden and undemocratic as the real world. Those who can pay, will get preferential treatment and services. Those who can’t, will get a much poorer service. And even more concerning, those ISPs that allow users to publish information considered damaging to corporate or government interests could be blackmailed with the law.

In other words, the plans are an internet killer in the words of Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee who urges the FCC not to adopt the proposals because they:

Would kill the internet as we know it. Google, a company that I’ve long admired and currently hold thousands of dollars of stock in, just ‘went evil.’

The other major issue at stake here is why should Google and Verizon be allowed to “gang-up” and dictate what the FCC should or should not pass as law? Surely that’s the job of democratically elected Congress as Charing Ball writes:

The fact that Google and Verizon are advising the FCC on how it should “frame legislature” is problematic and disturbing in and of itself. Excuse me if I’m mistaken, but legislation is a function of Congress and certainly not two telecommunication juggernauts, which certainly have something to gain by drafting the rules in their interest. By allowing Google and Verizon to draft the rules, it’s like asking the wolves to guard the hen house.

If you want to block Google and Verizon’s plans to restrict freedom of information and maintain the internet as free as it is today, sign-up for the Progressive Change Campaign petition to stop the FCC passing the Open Internet into law.

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