Google and Verizon recently released a 2-page immodest proposal, a “policy framework” for FCC consideration, outlining their vision for the future of net neutrality. Net neutrality is the current principle requiring Internet service providers to adhere to the rule of common carriage and treat all communication moving through their pipelines equally. Those advocating against it (e.g., those same service providers) would like to create a “tiered” Internet – one which treats the content of high paying customers differently, transporting it in a digital “express lane” while everyone else waits…and waits…and waits. The Google-Verizon proposal is a combination of decent ideas (such as advocating for certain measures of transparency) undercut by terrible ones that would severely threaten the future of an open Internet (exempting the wireless arena from net neutrality regulations). The fact that these companies are actually purporting to help the FCC write and set policy would be hysterically funny if it were not being taken so seriously by the press, lawmakers and even those charged with regulating the Internet.
Given their often-competing interests, these companies are strange bedfellows indeed. Their newfound alliance would not be possible, were it not for Google’s dramatic about-face on the issue of net neutrality. As recently as 2006, Google was rather active and innovative in their appeals to the public to join the fight to preserve net neutrality. Columbia law professor Tim Wu and others have argued that without net neutrality, Google might have been crushed by Microsoft before the company ever got off the ground. What a difference four years in a deregulated telecommunications landscape makes.
In addition to busting Google for shifting positions on net neutrality and going over to the dark side in this clip, Jon Stewart highlights the free-range consumer ignorance and paucity of informed media discourse that threaten to take down this critical issue of cultural policy. Granted, regulatory debates are difficult to explain and don’t usually make for great television. Even comedian and former SNL star Senator Al Franken could not inject enough energy into a recent interview about the future of net neutrality to keep the most engaged viewer from falling asleep. Thankfully, the “fake news” of The Daily Show provides regular wake-up-calls like this one.