Public-interest groups are especially unhappy with Google because they see its pact with Verizon as a betrayal of its staunch early support for net neutrality. The Google-Verizon agreement likely has its roots in a partnership between the two companies, announced last year, to speed development of new mobile devices based on Google’s Android software and running on Verizon’s cell-phone network.
In defending the plan from a wave of opposition, Google released a statement that read: “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. … 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.”
What Google says about the gridlock in Washington is true, and perhaps the internet giant deserves a nod for trying to move the issue forward. But public policy decisions made from the boardroom aren’t good enough, and school leaders should pressure federal lawmakers not to abdicate their responsibility in ensuring a fair and open internet.
Just as we wouldn’t allow our system of highways to be managed by toll collectors whose first obligations are to shareholders, we shouldn’t allow the same to happen to the information highway–the backbone for all commerce in the digital era. Letting market forces alone dictate the future didn’t work for the banking industry, or for Wall Street–and it won’t work for the internet, either.