Are Google and Verizon Trying to Choke the Net Too Early?

The Information Age is hardly out of the womb. It’s still gasping for first breaths while we clean it off to get a better look.

However, many people and businesses act as if the Information Age is ready for Long Term Care Insurance. Don’t buy what they’re selling.

Recently, Google (GOOG) and Verizon (VZ) started lobbying to end net neutrality. Essentially, they want to create multiple lanes of information traffic, and each lane will have different delivery speeds (see their clever loophole below). This is great for the companies because they want to better price discriminate among their customers. This is horrible for the Internet (in current form) because we have no idea how badly we will choke information and innovation if we cut the cloth this early in the game.

To be clear, Wired notes:

“In the here and now the proposal does not include the paid prioritization of one company’s traffic over another — a victory for net neutrality proponents. But it does call for so-called “fast lanes” ISPs have been clamoring for in ways even the two companies could not foresee, according to both Google President Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg …

In other words, to avoid creating tiered access on the internet and dealing with associated governmental red tape, Google and Verizon have proposed creating a second, paid-access-only internet — and mobile networks are exempt from the proposal, so the concept of net neutrality wouldn’t necessarily apply there.”

Seems to me we’ll end up with a super-slick and efficient internet which will cost users a pretty penny, while the public internet turns into a neglected ghetto. Think: cable TV versus public access TV.

While there may be extremely good reasons to create different quality internets in the future, we are simply not there yet. The internet has not yet matured to the point where we can unanimously say, “This content needs special privileges and will have no impact on small businesses, job creation, innovation, commerce, information access, etc.”

Moreover, the Internet is so important to the future of humanity, this is not the time to allow corporate entities to start jockeying for control. Sovereign states need to protect the commons so we don’t slowly start slipping down the slope toward a civilization in which a handful of elite for-profit companies exert unnecessary control over information.

Think that sounds silly? Take a second to ponder how financial services companies toppled the global economy and oil companies have thwarted attempts to diversify toward cleaner/safer energy sources.

Let’s all relax and put down the proverbial guns. There is no rush to make huge decisions about privatizing the internet. Google and Verizon are getting plenty of great tax breaks and subsidies through government programs. They can hold their horses for much longer.

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