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Summary:

The latest round in the battle over net neutrality has started, and as usual the telcos have their game plan sussed out and in widespread, synchronized action. The message? Google is bad, and wants to control the Internet to keep its cash pile growing. Telcos, meanwhile, […]

The latest round in the battle over net neutrality has started, and as usual the telcos have their game plan sussed out and in widespread, synchronized action. The message? Google is bad, and wants to control the Internet to keep its cash pile growing. Telcos, meanwhile, just want to innovate, so please don’t write laws keeping them from doing so.

Sometimes this message is blatant, as David Isenberg notes in a recent post about a speech given by Verizon’s general counsel, William Barr.

According to Isenberg, Barr hit many of the main telco vs. Google points: Google has more market cap than we do, Google and other Internet players hired a lot of lobbyists, and because of Google’s success, it has more control over the Internet than those who own and operate the routers. Said Barr:

Google is the gateway on the Internet, because it stands between you and the stuff you want to find. It has more of a choke hold than [Verizon].

You expect that kind of stuff from the telcos, who are great at lobbying, and know how to effectively spin messages that aren’t necessarily true. But facts aren’t really important in opinion battles like this, and Google is a good target for several reasons.

  • Google is still naive when it comes to navigating Capitol Hill, and we’re not sure if they learned any lessons from last year’s debacles;
  • Google’s stratospheric stock price, arrogance and new-age foofiness makes them easy to pick on;
  • Google’s overwhelming monopoly in search makes it easy for telcos to compare Google’s gatekeeping ability to telcos’ network access infrastructure (even though one was built by monopoly fief and taxpayer subsidies, and the other through open competition);

From there you get the new argument: If Google wants network neutrality, why aren’t they offering search neutrality?

Telco water-carrier Mike Volpi, the general manager of Cisco’s service provider business, dedicated a long portion of his speech at the company’s December analyst conference to this point, even putting up slides with Google search pages showing that Google charges more for preferential ad treatment. You might ask, what does that have to do with packet-sniffing and router-based control of your Internet consumption? Nothing, but nobody’s asking those questions.

It’s not a coincidence that everyone on the telco side of the fence is making similar arguments. This is called good lobbying, and it’s the kind of thing you can do when you are prepared to spend multiple millions — somewhere between $44 million and $68 million last summer, according to various sources — to fight a battle you want to win.

As the FCC’s final decision on the AT&T/BellSouth merger showed, net neutrality proponents are still scattered and disorganized, many not sure if they won or not (they didn’t) in the deal.

Meanwhile, there is also an emerging trend of net-head techno experts weighing in, and while they aren’t taking the telco side per se, they are more afraid of Congress messing with technology than they are of telco pricing pressure. (Bob Kahn, one of the inventors of the TCP/IP protocol and one of the Internet’s founding fathers, has also in the past called for open-access last-mile networks. But don’t expect to see the telcos trumpet that idea on their lobbying blogs anytime soon.)

The upshot at this point in time? Even with NN proponents like Ed Markey and Ron Wyden in positions of power in Congress, expect tough sledding for any specific net neutrality legislation anytime soon. And expect to hear a whole lot more about how bad ol’ Google just wants to make money off the Internet without paying for it.

  1. Hmm, seems as if Verizon has already paid off Robert X. Cringely. Have you seen his latest column?

    When Being a Verb is Not Enough: Google wants to be YOUR Internet.
    see: http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/2007/pulpit20070119001510.html

    Perhaps this will be more entertainment than republicans and democrats, err I mean cops and robbers…

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  2. And another thing before I forget.

    Why haven’t the consumer privacy advocates gotten into this net neutrality battle?

    To dole out different levels of services requires (deep) packet inspection. Couldn’t this be seen as the digital equivalent of opening my mail?

    Verizon sucks because they focus on themselves, ie the core, instead of the me, ie. the edge.

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  3. I for one, can’t wait till Google becomes an ISP. GoodBye TELCOs.

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  4. while I agree the telcos suck, there is truth to the view of Google as a chokehold to the net.

    Why shouldn’t we be concerned about concentrating such power and control in single organization, however cuddly and good-intentioned they seem to be?

    While I agree net neutrality is a legitimate concern, I don’t think it should be resolved by legislation.

    If the govt intervenes in either case though, we’ll simply wind up with bureaucrats choosing the “winners” and stifling the creative entrepreneurial energy that we’ve all enjoyed so far.

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  5. Fuck these luddite and greedy asshat telcos..the old AT&T broken up into seven Baby Bells in 1984 by Judge Greene and now its back stronger than ever again in 2 mega players the new AT&T and Verizon ( Qwest is the bastard stepchild ) thanks to their lobbyists and the supplicant FCC primarily since 2000 when Bush admin took charge ( gotta make sure the oil co’s, pharma, and telcos get an uneven playing field because they give Bushco millions of $$$ ).

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  6. The Net Neutrality “Muddle”…

    When word got out that the FCC agreed to the terms of the Bell South/ATT merger with a supposed caveat that Net Neutrality principals must be followed for a good spell, one might have expected that the advocates for NN…

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  7. The Net Neutrality “Muddle”…

    When word got out that the FCC agreed to the terms of the Bell South/ATT merger with a supposed caveat that Net Neutrality principals must be followed for a good spell, one might have expected that the advocates for NN…

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  8. The telcos are simply lying. They pump a lot more money into DC lobbying than Google could dream of, and enjoy a tax-subsidized monopoly on the last mile, which they call “their” network.

    If the Bells don’t want to be common carriers any more, that’s fine: they can start paying franchise fees for their rights of way like everyone else who wants access to the last mile. With some actual competition on a level playing field for residential broadband service, this whole debate would be moot.

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  9. Mt Blog ‘gets it’
    http://www.toyz.org/mrblog/archives/00000269.html

    I have spoken before of the abuse of the word “free” when it comes to telephony.

    And today, a statement by Om Malik just set me off. He said:

    [Unity is] a nifty marketing ploy that would allow big-spending AT&T wireless and wireline customers to call each other for free. (emphasis added)

    “To call each other for free.” There it is again. The telco marketing execs must be proud. In order to qualify for the Unity plan, you have to PAY for an unlimited calling plan on your wireline service (that’s an extra $40) AND you also have to PAY for a more expensive wireless plan (an extra $20 or more, depending on the minute plan you could otherwise be on). You are PAYING for those calls. THEY ARE NOT FREE!

    A Skype to Skype call is free. A PhoneGnome to PhoneGnome call is free. A call that is included in my $100+ monthly service fee is NOT free any more than a mile I drive is “free” with a fill up of fuel in my car.

    No wonder the telephone companies, both wireline and wireless, abuse us so badly. There are no consquences for their actions. Even smart people like Om Malik, Andy Abramson, and countless others repeat the telco’s marketing spin for them. We all do it. I don’t mean to single out Om. You probably hear people say it almost every day. If you read industry news, you’ll see someone in the media or a blogger do it almost every day. We put up with the outrageous fees and horrible customer service of these companies. We take it with a smile. Why should they change their behavior when there are no consequences for not doing so? They will continue to rape us until we change our behavior and start fighting back a little.

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  10. Km4,

    not sure what you are saying, but clearly my sarcasm about “free” did not get through clearly.

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