Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Decoding Google's Net Neutrality Proposal Blog: The Pixie Dust-Free Edition!

The opening line of the classic J.M. Barrie book “Peter Pan” reads, “All children, except one, grow up.”

Actually, that one grew up, too, and now the whole Internet is angry at Google (GOOG) and taking shots, because of the Silicon Valley search giant’s recent joint public-policy proposal with Verizon (VZ) over net neutrality.

Many are claiming Google–in the most cynical of ways–sold out its long-standing commitment to the open Internet to make a corporately favorable deal.

Thus, Google–in this case, Richard Whitt, Washington Telecom and Media Counsel–took to the corporate blog yesterday to explain it all away in a post titled “Facts About Our Network Neutrality Policy.”

It practically begs for translation, so BoomTown shall not disappoint:

Google wrote: Over the past few days there’s been a lot of discussion surrounding our announcement of a policy proposal on network neutrality we put together with Verizon. On balance, we believe this proposal represents real progress on what has become a very contentious issue, and we think it could help move the network neutrality debate forward constructively.

We don’t expect everyone to agree with every aspect of our proposal, but there has been a number of inaccuracies about it, and we do want to separate fact from fiction.

Translation: Wait, the hypnotic multicolored letters aren’t working anymore? What about the cute logos on the homepage–didja see our whimsical “Wizard of Oz” montage? Hey, our founders still wear wacky shoes!

And look over here at the Googleplex: Segways with wings and coconut-water lattes for all!

Okay, we’ll come clean: This band of Lost Boys–and Wendy who runs search–didn’t want to grow up, either.

But Sheryl Sandberg did an Indian talent raid and convinced Tinkerbell to take all her fairy dust to work on magical social-marketing features at Facebook. Also, Captain Hook and that alligator are working up some geo-location thing with the ticking clock over at Foursquare.

In other words, that’s Mr. Peter Man to you now.

Google wrote: MYTH: Google has “sold out” on network neutrality.

FACT: Google has been the leading corporate voice on the issue of network neutrality over the past five years. No other company is working as tirelessly for an open Internet.

But given political realities, this particular issue has been intractable in Washington for several years now. At this time there are no enforceable protections–at the Federal Communications Commission or anywhere else–against even the worst forms of carrier discrimination against Internet traffic.

With that in mind, we decided to partner with a major broadband provider on the best policy solution we could devise together. We’re not saying this solution is perfect, but we believe that a proposal that locks in key enforceable protections for consumers is preferable to no protection at all.

Translation: We caved. In fact, we spelunked. All right, we journeyed to the center of the earth. Second to the right and straight on till morning, times a google.

But it is not technically selling out, since we got no money in the deal. I mean, not yet.

That comes later, when we and Verizon control all the tolls on the private and exclusive Schminternet, named for Fearless Leader and CEO Eric Schmidt (pictured here), coming to you in 2020!

We’re not saying the solution is perfect. But we believe that a proposal that locks in key moneymaking fees for us is preferable to having to struggle later–like those losers at Microsoft (MSFT) do today–when the search business goes the way of boxed software.

Google wrote: MYTH: This proposal represents a step backwards for the open Internet.

FACT: If adopted, this proposal would for the first time give the FCC the ability to preserve the open Internet through enforceable rules on broadband providers. At the same time, the FCC would be prohibited from imposing regulations on the Internet itself.

Here are some of the tangible benefits in our joint legislative proposal:

* Newly enforceable FCC standards
* Prohibitions against blocking or degrading wireline Internet traffic
* Prohibition against discriminating against wireline Internet traffic in ways that harm users or competition
* Presumption against all forms of prioritizing wireline Internet traffic
* Full transparency across wireline and wireless broadband platforms
* Clear FCC authority to adjudicate user complaints, and impose injunctions and fines against bad actors
* Verizon has agreed to voluntarily abide by these same requirements going forward–another first for a major communications provider. We hope this action will convince other broadband companies to follow suit.

Translation: Did you ever do the Hokey Pokey? Jockeying for political power in Washington is like that, except someone always loses an eye.

You put your eternal soul in,
You put your ethics out;
You put your corporate standards in,
And you shake them all about.
You do the Hokey-Pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about!

Which is why they say you should never watch sausage being made.

Google wrote: MYTH: This proposal would eliminate network neutrality over wireless.

FACT: It’s true that Google previously has advocated for certain openness safeguards to be applied in a similar fashion to what would be applied to wireline services. However, in the spirit of compromise, we have agreed to a proposal that allows this market to remain free from regulation for now, while Congress keeps a watchful eye.

Why? First, the wireless market is more competitive than the wireline market, given that consumers typically have more than just two providers to choose from. Second, because wireless networks employ airwaves, rather than wires, and share constrained capacity among many users, these carriers need to manage their networks more actively. Third, network and device openness is now beginning to take off as a significant business model in this space.

In our proposal, we agreed that the best first step is for wireless providers to be fully transparent with users about how network traffic is managed to avoid congestion, or prioritized for certain applications and content. Our proposal also asks the Federal government to monitor and report regularly on the state of the wireless broadband market. Importantly, Congress would always have the ability to step in and impose new safeguards on wireless broadband providers to protect consumers’ interests.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the future of wireless broadband increasingly will be found in the advanced, 4th generation (4G) networks now being constructed. Verizon will begin rolling out its 4G network this fall under openness license conditions that Google helped persuade the FCC to adopt. Clearwire is already providing 4G service in some markets, operating under a unique wholesale/openness business model. So consumers across the country are beginning to experience open Internet wireless platforms, which we hope will be enhanced and encouraged by our transparency proposal.

Translation: By transparency, we mean a backroom deal so covered in the fog of compromise that it was like the Smoke Monster in “Lost.”

And you know what happened when he (she? it?) showed up. Not pretty.

Neither was the fact that we had to throw wireless–the most promising of networks–under the bus right now. While there is likely to be some crushing of competition and mangling of the bones of this little baby, you can be sure Congress can always step in to protect consumers’ interests with regard to wireless broadband.

In fact, Congress just hired Kate and Jon Gosselin to give parenting tips on how not to completely take advantage of the wired Internet’s most valuable offspring.

Google wrote: MYTH: This proposal will allow broadband providers to “cannibalize” the public Internet.

FACT: Another aspect of the joint proposal would allow broadband providers to offer certain specialized services to customers, services which are not part of the Internet. So, for example, broadband providers could offer a special gaming channel, or a more secure banking service, or a home health monitoring capability–so long as such offerings are separate and apart from the public Internet. Some broadband providers already offer these types of services today. The chief challenge is to let consumers benefit from these non-Internet services, without allowing them to impede on the Internet itself.

We have a number of key protections in the proposal to protect the public Internet:

* First, the broadband provider must fully comply with the consumer protection and nondiscrimination standards governing its Internet access service before it could pursue any of these other online service opportunities.

* Second, these services must be “distinguishable in purpose and scope” from Internet access, so that they cannot over time supplant the best effort Internet.

* Third, the FCC retains its full capacity to monitor these various service offerings, and to intervene where necessary to ensure that robust, unfettered broadband capacity is allocated to Internet access.

So we believe there would be more than adequate tools in place to help guard against the “cannibalization” of the public Internet.

Translation: Yes, the very same government that protected its citizens from the sub-prime mortgage mess by monitoring those giant, risk-mad banks so well.

The same government that was making sure oil giants like BP adhered to strict safety standard for its offshore wells.

The same government…well, you get the general idea, but you should have no fear of cannibals.

Of sharkish telcom companies, yes. Of man-eating lions from the cable business, certainly.

But of multicolored, letter-decorated piranhas who look harmless with their big squishy balls and organic guava smoothies but will cut you as soon as you stick one consumer finger in the digital pond?

Let’s just say: Don’t go in the water.

Google wrote: MYTH: Google is working with Verizon on this because of Android.

FACT: This is a policy proposal–not a business deal. Of course, Google has a close business relationship with Verizon, but ultimately this proposal has nothing to do with Android. Folks certainly should not be surprised by the announcement of this proposal, given our prior public policy work with Verizon on network neutrality, going back to our October 2009 blog post, our January 2010 joint FCC filing, and our April 2010 op-ed.

Translation: Rachel, are you in London or back in Mountain View? Please ring us up asap, as you need to come up with some fancy new talk. I don’t think they are buying this policy-proposal-not-a-business-deal pablum.

In fact, I am even giggling every time I write it.

Google wrote: MYTH: Two corporations are legislating the future of the Internet.

FACT: Our two companies are proposing a legislative framework to the Congress for its consideration. We hope all stakeholders will weigh in and help shape the framework to move us all forward. We’re not so presumptuous to think that any two businesses could–or should–decide the future of this issue. We’re simply trying to offer a proposal to help resolve a debate which has largely stagnated after five years.

It’s up to Congress, the FCC, other policymakers–and the American public–to take it from here. Whether you favor our proposal or not, we urge you to take your views directly to your Senators and Representatives in Washington.

We hope this helps address some of the inaccuracies that have appeared about our proposal. We’ll provide updates as the situation continues to develop.

Translation: Indeed, two corporations are not legislating the future of the Internet.

In point of fact, there were at least a half-dozen of us on the G5 on the way back from divvying up the Web in D.C.

And we’re not so presumptuous to think that any two businesses could–or should–decide the future of this issue.

We are planning on including at least six or seven more businesses, since it will cost an awful lot of money to peddle all that influence in D.C.

Of course, that Mark Zuckerberg over at Facebook seems to be holding out and even criticizing our Verizon bear hug.

That kid has some guts all right–but he can’t live in Neverland forever.

At some point, you’ve got to grow up. You can’t clap your hands and believe you can fly. Even pixie dust eventually runs out.

And that’s something we at Google know very, very well by now.

And until the magic returns, please relish the incomparable Mary Martin in the famous stage version of “Peter Pan” singing “Never Never Land.” As Peter Pan described himself, “I’m youth, I’m joy. I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg.” Martin is all that and more:

"Never Never Land"
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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald