Newitz in 2010: Google and Verizon Could Kill the Internet in Five Years

May 1st, 2014
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect:  Analee Newitz, editor in chief of io9, charged in August 2010 that a Google/Verizon axis could destroy the internet in five years.  That means her target date is only 15 months away.  Newitz was referring to a proposal presented jointly by Google and Verizon to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission).  This was essentially a response to public interest groups that were lobbying the U.S. Government  to maintain a free and open internet.


Follow up:

Newitz borrowed a name for the joint proposal from an 2004 flash movie prepared by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson (EPIC 2014):  "Googlezon".   The "EPIC" Googlezon was a combination of Google and Amazon.  Newitz refers to a different "zon".  Below is a 2007 update of the original video, called Epic 2015:

Newitz called the Googlezon proposals "harbingers of a dystopian media future".  She said the following about the principle of "net neutrailty" which Googlezon was aimed to destroy:

In a nutshell, net neutrality means that internet service providers like Verizon have to deliver everything - data, services, whatever - in a "neutral" way. For example, if we had net neutrality laws in the US, Verizon wouldn't be allowed to do things like make Gmail run faster than Facebook. Neither would Verizon be able to "prejudice" its consumers against certain services, for example by making any peer-to-peer traffic run really slowly.

Google has always been a staunch supporter of net neutrality, since its income depends on people being able to access the company's services quickly online. Imagine if Verizon demanded that Google pay extra to prevent YouTube from giving you the annoying twirly circle. Google's business model would be crippled, and you would probably have to start paying for YouTube access.

But nobody has successfully implemented net neutrality laws in the US. So if Google wants to protect its business, it has to make deals with companies like Verizon. And here's where things get ugly.

After a "settlement" of the issue at the end of 2011, net neutrality is again getting headlines as FCC Chairman on Wheeler is pushing further regulatory reform.  He wants to permit carriers to provide faster service for a fee subject to review by the FCC.  Critics have argued that the proposal would allow priority traffic to zip to its destination while all other traffic would be subjected to congestion.  The analogy is something like priority traffic on a toll road through a city with all other traffic on local streets with traffic lights on every corner.

Wheeler has denied that the situations described by the critics would be allowed to happen.

Wheeler has spent his career as a venture capitalist and lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry.  From Wikipedia:

Tom Wheeler, a former lobbyist, is the current Chairman of the FCC, appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in November, 2013.[1] Prior to working at the FCC, Wheeler worked as a venture capitalist and lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry, with prior positions including President of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA).[2][3] In recognition of his work in promoting the growth and prosperity of the cable television industry and its stakeholders, he was inducted into the Cable Television Hall of Fame.[4]In recognition of his work in promoting the wireless industry, he was inducted into the Wireless Hall of Fame.[5]

In late April 2014 the contours of a document leaked that indicated that Wheeler's FCC would consider promulgating rules allowing Internet service providers (ISPs) to violate Net Neutrality principles by making it easier for Internet users to access certain content - whose owners paid fees to the ISPs - and harder to access other content,[6] thus undermining the traditional open architecture of the Internet. Substantial backlash manifested in the days following the leak, from activists and the mainstream press.[7

So the question remains open as to whether the internet as we know it can be destroyed by 2015.

John Lounsbury



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