Tags: consitutional rights

Google/Verizon represent one of the most serious threats to the Internet ever

A joint statement by Google and Verizon which appeared on Google's Public Policy Blog summarising an agreement between the two giants which they are planning to push to legislators in the US.

"Today our CEOs will announce a proposal that we hope will make a constructive contribution to the dialogue. Our joint proposal takes the form of a suggested legislative framework for consideration by lawmakers".

The blog entry provides a summary of the seven main points from the agreement and everyone should have serious concerns about their plans and make every effort to lobby their political representatives to ensure that such proposals never become law.  Why?  Because they have the potential to destroy the Internet as we know it.  No I am not exagerating and I will explain why.

Point number one in the summary states the following:

"First, both companies have long been proponents of the FCC’s current wireline broadband openness principles, which ensure that consumers have access to all legal content on the Internet, and can use what applications, services, and devices they choose."

As a libertarian this causes me serious concern and that concern stems from the words "access to all legal content".  This is a very serious situation especially in a month where the Pentagon have demanded Wikileaks return confidential military documents sent to them by an as yet unknown individual.  The problem with legislation which allows for content to be turned off is that it poses a significant danger for free speech and democracy. 

For example, Wikileaks is not illegal yet this new legislation would allow the Federal Government to force Internet Service Providers to block access on a nationwide level.  Today it is Wikileaks, tomorrow it might be a politcal rant and next week it might be a resource on abortion.  The problem exists in who defines what is illegal and what oversight will be put in place - will the policy be transparent or will the blocks take the form of secret lists - what about false positives and what action will be available to sites wrongly censored?  Furthermore what about human and constitutional rights based on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression?

Before anyone comments that this will never be abused and only sites which can be absolutely defined as illegal could be blocked, I would like to remind you that historically - when a law can be abused, it generally has been.  For a prime example look at the Sunset Clauses of the PATRIOT Act - pieces of law which were only ever supposed to be temporary specifically because of their impact on civil liberties, which have since become permanent.  If you think this new legislation won't be abused you are naive at best and given the vast power yielded by the corporate lobby in the US you can be sure that organisations such as the RIAA/MPAA etc. will be bringing their full weight to bear in the blocking of what they consider to be infringing content even if a court has never determined it to be so.  This is the beginning of an incredibly slippery slope and if I were a US citizen I would be deeply concerned about the erosion of my constitutional rights - even as a European, I am deeply concerned about the impact this proposal could have on the global community.

The second area for concern comes under point six as follows:

"Sixth, we both recognize that wireless broadband is different from the traditional wireline world, in part because the mobile marketplace is more competitive and changing rapidly. In recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace, under this proposal we would not now apply most of the wireline principles to wireless, except for the transparency requirement. In addition, the Government Accountability Office would be required to report to Congress annually on developments in the wireless broadband marketplace, and whether or not current policies are working to protect consumers."

This is completely unacceptable.  Google and Verizon are proposing that Net Neutrality should be codified in law for wired networks but that the same principles should not be adhered to Wireless networks and it is clear to see why.  Google and Verizon both have a significant stake in mobile data - Verizon through their infrastructure and Google through their Android platform.  For two companies with a vested interest in the abuse of network communications, to recommend that those same networks should not be regulated, is effectively giving themselves open license to abuse communications on a mass scale.

I am not being an alarmist here - it is very clear that Google plan to manipulate mobile data in any way they can to enhance their advertising services (enhance for their customers not their users) particularly with the use of location data.  If there is no regulation for Wireless Networks you can guarantee that any wireless services you use will be subjected to manipulation at every level.  Examples of this might be for Google to make deals with wireless providers which block access to all other streaming video services other than YouTube (bye bye Vimeo etc.) or for Verizon to block VOIP access which has been an issue with various carriers for a long time already.

The consequences of these proposal are an illustration of exactly why Net Neutrality is paramount for an Open Internet.  Are you, the American People, the Land of the Free - are you going to allow two corporations to dictate the shape of access to online resources and systematically destroy any notion of freedom or net neutrality in a single blow - or are you going to stand and up stop them?

The world awaits your response but remember if you don't act, don't complain when your remaning fragile civil liberties have been erased because it would be by your own hands and what takes six months to destroy will take generations to rebuild.