Thursday, June 29, 2006

Network Neutrality

Part of Google’s corporate philosophy is "You can make money without doing evil". So, why is Google currently involved in lobbying in Washington DC? Because another part of their philosophy is "Democracy on the web works." It probably would be more accurate to say that "Meritocracy on the web works". Up until this point the internet has been a place where you were judged on the quality or "merits" of your site, not by how much money you had. If you have optimized your site for certain topics you have been able to rank at the top of the search engines and compete with sites that are much better funded, but not as well optimized. It has leveled the playing field for many small businesses, political commentators and numerous other sites. You may not be able to afford to buy TV commercials during the Superbowl but you can rank #1 on a search engine and reach a large audience based purely on the quality of your site. However, that may all be changing. The internet might be turning into a pay-to-play forum just like all other types of media. And that is exactly what the large telecommunications companies like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast want. And that has the potential to end the internet as we know it.

The large telcom companies have been lobbying hard to get the congress to pass new laws to allow the telcom companies to charge websites for the right to have people access their sites. They want Google (and all websites) to have to pay them fees so that people can use the Google website. If Google won’t pay, they want the right to limit or block access to Google’s site for all of their subscribers. And it isn’t just Google that this will affect. Any website will have to pay to insure that their site is available to all the telcom company’s customers. If this legislation passes it will drastically change the internet as you know it. Which is why Google and groups like Save the Internet have been working hard to make sure the internet remains in its current form. On June 28th the Senate Commerce Committee voted to an 11-11 tie on the latest piece of legislation about Net Neutrality. Following that vote U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) began efforts to block any bill that would not protect net neutrality saying the following:

"The Internet has thrived precisely because it is neutral," Wyden said. "It has thrived because consumers, and not some giant cable or phone company, get to choose what they want to see and how quickly they get to see it. I am not going to allow a bill to go forward that is going to end surfing the web free of discrimination."

And that is the debate in a nutshell. So, if you don’t want to let the telcom companies decide what sites you see on the internet, you might want to stop by Save the Internet and let your elected officials know that you support Network Neutrality. Because as you can tell by the Senate Commerce Committee vote, this is going to be a close call in the Senate.

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