Could Google’s Mountain View WiFi Be a Response/Solution to Net Neutrality?

The often controversial John C. Dvorak makes an interesting point in his August 21 PC Magazine editorial – “The Google Ploy – A Revolution“. Google, an ardent supporter of Net Neutrality, has recently completed wiring Mountain View (it’s home city) with free municiple WiFi. The first such successfully wired city in America. Google is also wiring San Francisco. In his article, Dvorak makes the point that Google could very-well profitably monetize this free service and use it as a profitable model for city-by-city WiFi rollouts nation-wide. While perhaps not Google’s original intention, as the cable companies and telephone companies have been talking about the need for tiered services (along with tiered pricing for the likes of Google and Microsoft), if Google were to pull this off, this could result in the ultimate end-run around local telco/cable-co duopolies and, in so doing, do away with the need for net-neutrality legislation altogether. He makes a very interesting argument.

Source: John C. Dvorak Article: The Google Ploy – A Revolution?  |  The Register

Google Wires Mountain View Articles: Google’s Mountain View WiFi Support Page  |  Wired  |  San Jose Mercury News  |  San Francisco Chronicle  |  Palo Alto Online  |  PC Magazine  |  PC Pro  |  Gizmodo  |  Mac Newsworld  |  GigaOM  |  Playfuls

Jon Stewart Lampoons Sen. Ted Stevens on Net Neutrality

In this YouTube clip, Jon Stewart lampoon’s Senator Steven’s (R-Alaska) ‘Net Neutrality comments. Stewart goes on to lampoon recent Congressional Internet gambling debates and then humorously links the two.

Note: For a more serious discussion of Senator Steven’s comments (including Sen. Steven’s full commentary), you can listen to the “This Week in Tech” podcast that I linked-to on July 3, 2006. Podcast: Sen. Ted Stevens Out of Touch on Net Neutrality

The July 3rd “This Week in Tech” podcast includes (at time index 2:39) a clip of the Senator Ted Stevens, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, explaining his [mis]understanding of the ‘Net Neutrality issue and now the Internet works. Amusingly, he blames commercial video downloading for causing his e-mail to take 5 days for delivery. Leo and his guests have an interesting discussion/debate on “Net Neutrality” for the next 25 minutes or so of the podcast. For a more entertaining, and surprisingly understandable, description of the ‘Net Neutrality issue, see this amusing skit on Net Neutrality.

Sources: Episode 60 of This Week in Tech (MP3) | Full 10 Minute Sen Stevens “speech” here (Public Knowledge) | PC Magazine – John C. Dvorak | Technology Evangelist | Wired Blogs | New York Times (July 17, 2006)

Note: See a similarly out-of-touch Senator Joe Pitts speaking on the affects of video game violence on children posted on my video game law page on June 22, 2006.

Dale’s Comment: It’s scary that aging Senators like Senator Stevens, who have a limited comprehension of how the Internet works, are responsible for the laws that regulate it. While there are almost daily news stories on ‘net neutrality, I rarely cover it here. Congressional committee debates on this topic mean very little at the moment. My sense is that if the Democrats are able to take control of the Senate (and a greater share of the House) this fall, reasonable ‘net neutrality legislation may stand a chance. Until then, while interesting, my sense is that the continuous Congressional committee discussions/debates on the topic won’t amount to any changes in the law.

House Rejects Net Neutrality Again – by a Slimmer Margin

In another mostly partisan 24-22 vote, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce rejected another Democratic bid yesterday to include strong network neutrality protections in a telecommunications reform bill that is slated for a vote in the House in May. Net neutrality lobbyists seem to be gaining ground somewhat as the earlier vote against net neutrality on April 6 was much more lopsided at 23-8.

Sources: PC World  |  PC Magazine  |  L.A. Times  |  Boston Herald  |  ZDNet  |  Red Herring  |  San Francisco Chronicle  |  CIO Today  |  Information Week  |  MSNBC/  |  CNet News  |  Ms Magazine  |  Inquirer  |  The Register

Dale’s Comment: As I mentioned in my comments to the prior April 6 coverage, there is a strong possibility that one or both houses of Congress will return to Democratic control (or at least become more balanced) after the fall 2006 elections. As the Democrats pledge to fight on, hopefully, they’ll have another kick at the net neutrality issue then.

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Setback for Net Neutrality

The highly charged populist uprising over who owns the Internet lost its first significant battle when a U.S. House of Representatives committee voted down legislation that would block phone companies from establishing an Internet toll system for companies such as Google and Skype. Instead, the committee adopted compromise provisions, authorizing the FCC to investigate violations of network neutrality after the fact and levy fines of up to $500,000 on a case-by-case basis.
Sources: Red Herring  |  ars technica  |  PC Magazine  |  InfoWorld  |  ZDNet  |  CNet  |  TMC Net  |  CIO  |  Beta News  |  SF Chronicle  |  Michael Geist on Canadian “Net Neutrality” Telcom Reform
Dale’s Comment: Few things, it seems to me, are more important to the continued growth of the Internet than ‘net neutrality.

Net neutrality is the concept that Internet users should have unfettered access to all the Internet has to offer, and that network operators should be prohibited from blocking or degrading signals or content traversing their networks. Without ‘net neutrality, carriers such as AT&T could charge companies like Skype, Vonage and Google (or their customers) additional tiered fees to guarantee their services won’t be eroded or blocked when provided to end-user customers like you.

Because the fees charged by telcos such as AT&T, Verizon and Quest for data carriage are not enough to cover their losses from declining voice carriage rates, they are now floating the idea that tiered Internet access fees should be charged for access to specialized Internet services. This is absurd! Consumers already pay higher fees for the bandwidth needed to access broadband-intensive services. Charging additional tiered fees is simply double-dipping.

One would have thought that the Abermoth scandle-ridden Republican-controlled Senate would be less-likely to pander to special interest lobbyists through this mid-term election cycle. But in voting this bill down, they’ve done just that.

Alas, the Democrats appear to stand a fighting chance to take back the Senate this fall. ‘Net neutrality legislation will have to wait until then.
Related Story: Net Neutrality Not An Optional Feature of Internet