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Google and Verizon Proclaim They Are 'Just Friends'

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August 13, 2010

Google and Verizon Proclaim They Are 'Just Friends'

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

I used to be an admirer, Google (News - Alert). Really. I thought you were the good guys, the ones riding in on a white horse to revitalize the tech economy and create lots of new jobs in Silicon Valley so all those poor Northern California tech workers could afford their $6,000 a month mortgages on their 98-square-foot apartments. You had a cool logo, a wonderful, easy-to-use search engine, offices that would make life in the circus seem boring, and fantastic road maps and directions that even terminally cartographically impaired unfortunates like myself could follow. I particularly liked Google Image Search, which allows me to show my querying three-year-old daughter what a platypus looks like when she asks, right on the spot (imagine the days of antiquity when I would have had to schlep out to a library to show her a picture in an encyclopedia!) Sure, I knew you were out to make a profit, but I always thought it was the sort of profit my local organic vegetable stand was out to make. The bills have to be paid, I know.

I sided with you when you began scanning books: it’s hard to argue that making books available to more people can really be bad. I forgave you when it was revealed that your Google Street View cars were “accidentally” sniffing personal information off people’s wifi networks in Germany, and even when you tried to cover it up by hiding the hard drives. (“What hard drives?”) I’m sure the police in South Korea raided your office this week only because they were dying for a cup of Ethiopian Sidamo Fair Trade Organic coffee from one of those space-age coffee makers you have in your offices.

But now I hear you’re fooling around behind my back with my wireless carrier (with whom I’m seldom on speaking terms), making back-door deals cloaked in the worst kind of press release euphemisms and double-talk. Look, I’m not one of those people who believe that the Internet is some sort of airy-fairy communal Utopia, enjoyed by all and owned by no one. I’d like to think that way, just like those legions of outraged Twitterers, but since I actually know how the Internet works, my naiveté was relatively shallow.

I read your “Joint Policy for an Open Internet” manifesto, and I’m not impressed. Why on earth would we want to have two sets of rules for wireline and wireless networks when they taking us to the same Facebook (News - Alert) pages, the same half-price blender on Amazon and the same New York Times op-ed column? And your pledge to net neutrality…not prioritizing traffic based on how much the content’s provider can pay…seems fairly strong when it comes to wireline traffic, but it gets a little fuzzy around the area of wireless, which sort of implies that Verizon (News - Alert)…you know, your new BFF?...could happily prioritize wireless traffic to the providers with the fattest wallets. And exempting “managed services” (a nebulous term if there ever was one) from regulation seems to me to be leaving a loophole the size of Greenland wide open. Sounds to me a bit like, “We’re against Internet regulation, except regulation of the kind of Internet business we and our partners can really make whopping great piles of cash off of.”

We know your attitude in the past has been, “Don’t be evil,” but I’m having a hard time seeing this new agreement without some fog of brimstone in the way. I hope I’m wrong. I’m willing to go to counseling with you and forgive you your foibles. But first, you need to stop cuddling with that Verizon floozie.

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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