After a few days of absorbing the criticism of its joint proposal with Verizon, Google — a company that was once counted as a stalwart in the push for Net neutrality — is defending itself.
In a nutshell, the plan calls for excluding the mobile Internet from most of the consumer protections that would apply to the wired Internet. It would allow the creation of a “private” Internet, where service providers such as Verizon could offer as-yet-undefined broadband services.
Both companies were hit with a wave of criticism following their announcement, but the comments aimed at Google have been more withering because of the perception that it has sacrificed Net neutrality principles.
In making its defense, Google noted that even if people don’t agree with all of its points, the proposal at least represents progress toward resolving what has become a contentious issue. It also took pains to address what it called several “myths” circulating about the proposal, starting with the notion that Google has sold out on Net neutrality. (Its rebuttal: No progress was being made in Washington, and partnering with a provider would move the debate forward.)
Altogether, Google made six counterpoints to what it perceived as the main criticisms of the joint proposal.
Most of them were reasoned responses — although some certainly leave room for rebuttal. (In response to the “myth” that Google has joined up with Verizon because of Android, for example, Google’s argument boils down to “no, not true.”)
Left unexamined by both Google and its critics is which audience is Google trying to convince. After all, the vast majority of Internet and cellphone users very likely don’t know what Net neutrality is — and among those who do, the number who care deeply about the issue is no doubt small.
So, who is Google really speaking too?
Politicians and Policy Makers
This is a no brainer, according to David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision.
“It is trying to reach policy makers and decision makers,” Johnson told the E-Commerce Times. “They want to show these people their line of defense to convince the ones that are unsure, and to give the ones that do support them arguments that they can make.”
Indeed, Google alluded to this in addressing the so-called myth that it was trying to legislate from the boardroom.
“We’re simply trying to offer a proposal to help resolve a debate which has largely stagnated after five years,” it said. “It’s up to Congress, the FCC, other policymakers — and the American public — to take it from here.”
Other Internet Companies That Back Net Neutrality
There are a number of reasons Google is defending itself, speculated Ryan Radia, an analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. At least one is the hope that it will convince other Internet service-type companies to join it and Verizon in support of their version of Net neutrality.
“I think it realizes it needs to have all the friends it can in this issue,” said Radia.
Average citizens may not understand all the nuances of Net neutrality policy, but they are starting to hear about it one way or another, if only because of the ink devoted to the joint Google-Verizon proposal, said Scott Testa, a business professor at Cabrini College.
It is the type of debate that can easily devolve into evil versus good, he observed, depending on who is framing the issue.
“I think at a certain level, people’s gut reaction when they hear the bare-bones argument is to side with Net neutrality,” said Testa. “People are leery of the Internet being “controlled” by any one party.”
Even if that is not the case, many could see it that way, he suggested.
Google doesn’t want to let the perception take hold that it has betrayed its core principles, said Radia — among them, its “don’t be evil” motto.