Google-Verizon Proposal a Threat to the Net

Google CEO Eric Schmidt, once a net-neutrality advocate, helped introduce a Google-Verizon proposal that could threaten the future of the Internet.

It’s not often I call for boycotts or protest, but hear me out:

In summer 2006, Google CEO Eric Schmidt wrote an open letter to Google users imploring them to contact their representatives to voice concerns over net neutrality. Schmidt wrote,

Today the Internet is an information highway where anybody – no matter how large or small, how traditional or unconventional – has equal access. But the phone and cable monopolies, who control almost all Internet access, want the power to choose who gets access to high-speed lanes and whose content gets seen first and fastest. They want to build a two-tiered system and block the on-ramps for those who can’t pay.

Four years later, “they” is “we,” because on Monday, Google and Verizon laid out a plan that maintains neutrality through wire-based communications, but not mobile devices. According to Bloomberg, “The compromise as described would restrict Verizon from selectively slowing Internet content that travels over its wires, but wouldn’t apply such limits to Internet use on mobile phones.”

What does this mean? In short, if you were a website concerned with boosting traffic, ad revenue and the overall user experience — you know, a website that wants to be successful — Internet service providers like Verizon could charge a surplus to give your website prominence over other sites.

That’s a problem for guys like me who operate a blog 100 percent free of subscriptions, ads or other revenue-generation devices. That’s not my point here. I don’t want to make money. But that doesn’t mean you should have to suffer because I can’t afford to pay for high-quality delivery. (I can’t even offer high-quality content.)

The reason we love the Internet is because every website — my blog, Huffington Post, even Google — starts from the same point and races down the same straightaway track all of its existence. Some make it farther, faster, than others. Without net neutrality, the Internet turns into a circular track, and sites with deeper pockets would get a head start and the inside lane. If there’s anything we’ve learned over the past two decades, it’s that the Davids — Daily Kos, Drudge Report, Gizmodo — can compete with the Goliaths, so long as the playing field is even.

Google and Verizon want to tilt that field, and we’re the ones who suffer.

So, here’s what I’m asking you:

  • Keep an eye on the story. I don’t care what your source is, just read up and understand this complex matter.
  • If you feel strongly, consider what contributions you make to Google and Verizon. Do you use Google searches? Google ads? Google Reader? Are you a Verizon Wireless customer? Subscribe to Verizon FiOS? Are you OK with supporting two companies who are attempting to obliterate the Internet as we know it?
  • As Schmidt encouraged Google users in 2006, call your representative. Voice your opinion. Corporations already own cable, phone and the newspapers. Don’t let that happen with the Internet.