So Verizon and Google — two enormous, profit-making corporate entities — have a suggestion for the government on net neutrality. Let’s keep the wired Web open but close the mobile Web. It’ll never, ever fly, no matter how much money these two giants can bring to bear, because it’s so transparently obvious that anybody with half a brain can see what’s going on. Jeff Jarvis described it best this morning in a wonderful post “Internet, schminternet,” in which he describes the “schminternet” (guaranteed to become a meme) as “not the Internet.”
So ol, grandpa Internet may chug along giving us YouTube videos of flaming cats, but you want to get that while you’re out of your house? Well, that’s the nonnet. I can hear the customer “service” rep explaining this to us:
“Oh, no, sir. That’s not offered on the Internet. That’s on the schminternet.”
You want something new? Anything created after 2010?
And transparency in essence creates a third carve-out: So long as the phone company tells you it’s screwing your bits, it’s ok.
As Jeff later points out, mobile IS the future Web, so these recommendations/suggestions by Google and Verizon are a very, very big deal.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps responded in the way a government representative should.
“Some will claim this announcement moves the discussion forward. That’s one of its many problems. It is time to move a decision forward–a decision to reassert FCC authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open Internet now and forever, and to put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations.”
The most intriguing question in all of this is why Google, of all companies, would get in bed with Verizon in an attempt to restore scarcity to the open market. Google has made its fortune on the open Web, and it did so with the operating mantra “Do no evil.”
There’s also the little matter of mobile broadband using spectrum that is owned by the public. Google and Verizon would be happy if broadcasting ceased to exist and was shoved aside as part of the tired, old wired world, so that they could create their schminternet. Those airwaves belong to us, and our duly elected representatives will decide how they are used.
A lot of people ask me what I think the outcome of this kind of thinking will be, and my response is that it isn’t technology that’s “causing” the cultural disruptions about which I write; it’s disgruntled people USING technology. People have always been disgruntled when a privileged élite gets to dictate life, but the hyperconnectivity of the Web sticks a knife in the heart of all that. This new found freedom is not something people will easily release, so I have faith that neutrality will, in the end, prevail.
Meanwhile, though, vestiges of the past will fight it with everything they’ve got. After all, they already have it rather nice, and they’d like to keep it that way, thank you very much.
UPDATE: Here’s a great overview of why Google is involved in this by Ryan Singel at Wired.