August 09, 2010

"Net Neutrality" - deals, pawns, catspaws, and the jumping of sharks

For the recent news of Google and Verizon cutting a deal, err, I meant, announcing "A joint policy proposal for an open Internet" I'll make an exception to my practice of staying OUT of "Net Neutrality". I'm going to poke my head up today, since I suspect that those who might be inclined to slam me from "on high" in order to score a few cheap attention-points in the punditry game, are going to be too shell-shocked right now for that to matter to them.

As I put it above, a while back:

This whole issue is driven by a fight between content-providers versus telecommunications companies over who will pay for the cost of upgrades to network infrastructure. The telecommunications companies want to pit the content-providers against each other, essentially in an auction for best service, and hence extract more money. The content-providers don't want to play that game, and want to make sure the telecommunications companies can't even try it.

This is worth BILLIONS of dollars, and both parties know it. You can see the lobbying money in all the astroturf and camp-followers. But it's got nothing to do with freedom, democracy, or making little girls cry because their website is slow.

"Net Neutrality" peaked today. I don't mean that it's "over". But now is a watershed moment when some driving interests behind it - that battle between enormous corporations - have reached a compromise among themselves. Everyone, welcome to the moment when the pawns and the catspaws (that's you) have served their purpose, and are shortly to revert back to being ignored ranters on blogs, mailing-lists, and in obscure academic publications. The civil-libertarians are about to be, if not exactly cut loose, regarded as no longer useful.

And personally, I am extremely happy not to have donated my time and energy to Google. Google is not your friend. Google is not your buddy. Google is a mammoth company with multibillion-dollar interests. A corporation will not hesitate to use and discard free-speech arguments as part of its lobbying, abandoning them whenever convenient. I hope all the people who volunteered to be unpaid lobbyists have derived a deep emotional satisfaction from that work. Because if you didn't get anything else, that's all you'll end up with. If I had told some of the activists who tried to "recruit" me, what would eventually happen as we see here, I'd probably just have been attacked.

I've become very cynical. Today's Google-Verizon deal is an example of why.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on August 09, 2010 04:20 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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I hope you're right. Net neutrality is a stupid issue and always has been. It's not so much an issue as a grab-bag of grievances against the capitalist system conducted by puppet masters of various stripes. It hasn't been limited to commercial interests, as the "public interest" lobby was on it before Google was. One strong element is disenfranchised POTS regulators trying to preserve their relevance, for example. This is very evident in DC.

Posted by: Richard Bennett at August 11, 2010 03:45 PM

The auction-pricing/exclusive-deals issue, whatever one wants to call it, is quite real and important - but it's an economics matter, not a civil-liberties topic. Conflating various issues is a common rhetorical technique - but the various concerns should be treated on their own merits. And pretending everyone has the same interests eventually leads to unhappy outcomes when it becomes obvious that's untrue.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at August 12, 2010 02:13 AM

It will be interesting to see what type of deals they make - as these types of things are never cost free. And I don't mean price.

I have utilities (natural gas wholesale supply and transport) background - and these types of deals are never cost free.

Google/facebook/twitter/bandwidth hogs are going to have to make some tough calls if they play this game.

First up - advertising - flash ads may make better sales pitches to punters (except those with flashblock/adblock) but are bandwidth hogs. Has google etc done the math on revenue (hog sized ads vs text ads) and the cost of bandwidth they are going to have pay for?

Posted by: tqft at August 13, 2010 05:37 AM

If it has to do with ads, I'm *sure* Google has run various revenue/cost numbers! That's their business, after all (search is what they do to get audience, but the money comes from advertisers).

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at August 14, 2010 10:20 PM

I haven't finished thinking this through but what type of deal are they going to do?

If they (google, whoever) pay for priority for each visitor, then essentially they are selling off part of their revenue stream to the bandwidth providers. Do they really want this? The bandwidth providers do.

If they pay for fixed capacity - what happens when something big happens (war, pop craze) - and they hit the purchased capacity limit.

"If it has to do with ads, I'm *sure* Google"
I wouldn't be - would not be the first time I have seen management, finance & the regulatory team run ahead of operations.

They would be better off not playing this game, but it appears they have crossed that bridge.

Posted by: tqft at August 15, 2010 05:40 PM