Google and Verizon: Doin’ Evil?

September 6, 2010 / Updated: September 6, 2010 / Lena Shore
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Much excitement has been caused over the recent agreement by Google and Verizon. While it was not a formal business deal, the substance of the talks were which types of internet content to prioritize (bandwidth-wise) over others on wireless networks, and how best to go about it. The following describes the general public reaction to the results.

To say the internets has lost itself over this would be a pretty extreme understatement. The concern is Net Neutrality; the movement to keep internet providers from restricting access to items that don’t agree with their corporate or political philosophies. The agreement looks like it’s saying that Net Neutrality only applies to wired networks, and that wireless networks can chuck the whole concept and only allow their users to see the things they want them too.

As usual, the truth is something entirely different. The “content” that the agreement cites is not liberal vs. conservative, godly vs. wicked, or even porn vs. politics. It is voice traffic vs. video streaming, vs. browsing vs. torrent feeds. The basic idea is that voice traffic suffers the most from signal degradation, more quickly becoming useless (unintelligible). So anytime there’s a bottleneck in the signal, voice traffic gets moved to the front of the line. Video streaming is next, since the user’s experience suffers slightly less than voice, and more than browsing or torrents. You get the idea from here. What the agreement does not do is even discuss what the subject of that content might be. They don’t really care. Neutrality trolls can retreat to their caves for now.

Every large scale internet provider already does this to some extent. It’s called traffic shaping, and it’s always been a precursor to an improvement in bandwidth in the past. The idea behind Google and Verizon’s discussions were to make an across the board standard for how everyone handled it. My personal guess is that the end goal is to make your smartphone experience the same no matter what provider you pick, thereby allowing all phones to compete on an even field. Google picked Verizon because of its FiOS tech which is dramatically increasing internet speeds everywhere. Verizon Wireless, which handles the Google Android phones, is actually an entirely separate company.

While I am more than happy to stand on the street corner and scream conspiracy, this one just doesn’t pass muster.