Thursday, August 12, 2010

This Google-Verizon deal and Net Neutrality and all that...

Like everybody else, I'm disappointed with Google on this one. The stuff about the wired Internet is good, it's actually a stronger stance on net neutrality than has existed to date. But the wireless Internet is now supposed to be the Wild West of high tech, a lawless place where anybody big enough can do anything they want. Google should know better. But Google is not the important party in all this.

My feelings about Verizon are very different. Verizon paid for the network (having purchased it from its builders and/or previous owners) and now pays to maintain it. When the network in my neighborhood goes down, the trucks that come to fix it are Verizon trucks. It's fair and reasonable for Verizon to decide which packets its network will carry, and how those packets will be prioritized.

What would not be fair or reasonable would be to allow Verizon to block other efforts to build traffic-bearing networks.

I would love to see a parallel Internet built by hobbyists and local communities and small businesses. A few years back there was a wonderful book called Building Wireless Community Networks by Rob Flickinger. It seemed to me that Flickinger envisioned a nation-wide and perhaps world-wide community network. Maybe I was projecting my own hopes, but I like to think he might have shared that sentiment.

The right response to the Google-Verizon deal is not to complain about Google's duplicity. They are a publicly traded company, with all that entails. The right response is to start building a network that isn't supported by already-large corporations, where individuals and small new companies don't need to worry about policy decisions by the Googles and Verizons of the world.

Maybe this should replace Amateur Radio, which has been in decline since the Internet came along.