August 12, 2010

Civility, Neutrality, and Google

Greetings. It's now four days since Google and Verizon published their joint policy proposal for an open Internet. Today, Google posted an additional document, addressing what they view as the misconceptions being promulgated in various negative reactions to the plan.

I am extremely disappointed.

However, my disappointment is not with Google, nor Verizon. I applaud the willingness of both firms to put forth their public proposal.

Rather, I am disappointed -- no, that's not a strong enough word -- I'm mortified -- by the level of vitriol, obnoxiousness, obscenity, and emotionally-laden, hyperbole-saturated rhetoric that is characterizing many of the negative responses to the proposal.

Most of this abuse appears to be heaped on Google, not Verizon -- perhaps reflecting the fact that most pro-Net-Neutrality groups have not held ISPs in particularly high esteem to begin with.

So Google is attracting the lion's share of attacks related to displeasure over the proposal. Calls of "They sold us out!" -- "They've gone evil!" -- "Google joins the Dark Side" -- and so on -- are mild compared to various of the obscenity-laced tirades that have been appearing in some venues.

I'm about as solid a proponent of Net Neutrality and Open Internet concepts as you'll find anywhere. I like some aspects of the Google/Verizon proposal, but I do have significant disagreements with aspects of the plan, particularly relating to elements associated with the suggested handling of wireless broadband and new differentiated online services.

As I noted a couple of days ago, it's clear that the Google/Verizon proposal -- and that's all it is -- concepts for consideration -- is largely the result of completely understandable, prolonged frustration at the dangerously vacuous status quo in the U.S. Internet broadband universe.

As far as I'm concerned, this policy debate -- regardless of where you personally stand regarding the specific issues themselves -- is well served by straightforward public proposals like the one from Google and Verizon. The reasoned discussions that such proposals can foster are likely to be among the most important key components of any real, positive progress on these crucial matters.

But if the reward for publicly putting forth such concepts in good faith is mostly characterized by malevolent histrionic reactions -- rather than logical consideration of actual technical and policy effects -- we risk relegating broadband, Internet policies to the same virulent cesspool of political gamesmanship that has paralyzed the U.S. on other important issues ranging from immigration to civil liberties.

We must approach these matters with our brains, not our hormones -- with civility, not vulgarity. The former approaches may feel viscerally satisfying for a short time -- but they can generally be depended upon not to lead us toward solutions, but rather to march us right off the cliff.


Posted by Lauren at August 12, 2010 03:08 PM | Permalink
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