Google's "Fact" Sheet on Net Neutrality Isn't Convincing Anyone

Last Updated Aug 16, 2010 4:14 PM EDT

The popular opinion right now is that Google (GOOG) and Verizon (VZ) want to kill net neutrality. The search giant is attempting to repair its reputation with a blog post that separates the "Myths" from the "Facts". But when your corporate motto is "Don't Be Evil," there's not a lot of wiggle room to defend tough business decisions.

First off, Google seems to have a poor understanding of what it means to "sell out." In defiance of this "myth," Google's media counsel Richard Whitt writes that the company has been a leading voice on the issue of net neutrality for years, but seeing poor odds in Washington, decided to make a compromise.

Well, compromising your ideals in the face of economic or political realities in the very definition of selling out! Google can argue the benefits of its proposal in a rational way, but fans of the company's corporate idealism are still going to be disappointed.

A second "Myth" addressed by the blog post is that Google and Verizon are attempting to end network neutrality for the wireless Internet. Whitt doesn't try and disprove this point so much as talk around it. His main argument here is that the strong competition in the wireless market will ensure that companies don't privilege data from certain sources.

But the amount of competition in the wireless market isn't so different from traditional Internet. There are really four major wireless providers: Verizon, AT&T (ATT), T-Mobile (DT) and Sprint (FON). And within that group there are clear leaders. Verizon and AT&T make up a whopping 62% of paid subscribers.

By comparison, no single broadband ISP controls more than 18% of the market. True, it could be argued that in certain parts of the U.S. consumers are limited by local monopolies in terms of choice. But the traditional Internet market actually has a more evenly distributed field of competitors than wireless when you look at the national picture.

Finally, Whitt tries to disprove the "myth" that Google and Verizon are joining forces because they are also business partners around the Android operating system. To do this, he points out that the pair have been sounding the same tune on net neutrality since October, 21, 2009, when Google and Verizon authored their first shared statement.

So the two companies have been slowly working their way up to this announcement. And they've made similar statements in public before. How does that refute the idea that this might be a decision predicated on a business partnership? Google and Verizon have been business partners in Android since, oh yeah, October, 5, 2009, a few weeks before that first policy statement.

Google is making this decisions based on business, not ideals. Trying to double talk around that fact won't help repair its image.

Image from Flickr user Youngthousands
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  • Ben Popper

    Ben Popper writes at the intersection of culture and technology. His work has been published in the NY Times, Washington Post, Fast Company, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic and many others. He lives at www.benpopper.com.