Though we discussed it a bit a few days ago, the reactions to Google and Verizon‘s “net neutrality” proposal from major Internet and communications players are starting to roll in. Not surprisingly, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps was quick to voice his disapproval, noting that it was time to “put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations.” And while we couldn’t agree with Copps more completely, color us not surprised that AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega voiced his support for the effort at a recent industry conference, where he observed that the proposal “is good for the industry.”
That’s putting it mildly, Ralph. Though we didn’t harp on it before, in the near term the adoption of the Google and Verizon proposal would be a gold mine for the wireless industry because the new rule would be that as long as they told you how they were manipulating data traffic, there would be no rules! Using the incredibly odd justification that wireless broadband (i.e. the data on your phone or 3G wireless card) “is different” and “changing rapidly” Google and Verizon have decided they’d like to be able to, among other things, take money to make certain sites or types of data faster or slower over wireless. This makes about as much sense as having different airbag requirements for cars that run on diesel gas instead of unleaded. WAP and its ilk are dead, and the Internet we get on our phones is the same Internet we get on our computers.
Though you might be initially sympathetic to this “wireless is different argument” (particularly if you’ve ever tried to use an AT&T data connection in Manhattan or San Francisco), keep in mind that development of wired Internet infrastructure in the US has basically stopped. In the not-too-distant future, most US Internet connections will be wireless. Under the Google/Verizon plan, they’d also be non-neutral. This might make execs like Ralph de la Vega and their companies rich for a brief period, but it would also kill the innovation and openness that makes the current Internet something we love.