So in lieu of bringing back common carrier rules for telcos and cable companies, the Web companies began pushing for net neutrality regulations as the next-best solution. Broadly speaking, net neutrality is the principle that ISPs should not be allowed to block or degrade Internet traffic from their competitors in order to speed up their own. The major telcos have uniformly opposed net neutrality by arguing that such government intervention would take away ISPs' incentives to upgrade their networks, thus stalling the widespread deployment of broadband Internet.
Results: As far as Google is concerned, so far, so good. Last fall FCC chairman Julius Genachowski proposed two new rules to commission policy that would bar carriers from blocking or degrading lawful Web traffic and that would force carriers to be more open about their traffic management practices. The battle isn't yet over, however, as both Verizon and AT&T have been actively fighting final commission approval of the two rules. The carriers have argued that restricting their ability to favor certain content and to create tiered services would take away their financial incentives to invest in network upgrades. Additionally, the carriers have successfully lobbied several politicians, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, to try to block the FCC's proposed net neutrality rules before they are even voted on by the commission.
Initiative #2: Android and the Google Nexus One
The Android operating system and the Nexus One smartphone are both part of Google's vision of having wireless devices that aren't tied down to any particular network. In other words, Google wants users to eventually be able to take their favorite devices with them from one carrier to another without having to buy a whole new device.
The first part of implementing this vision came in 2007, when Google unveiled its long-awaited Android open-source mobile operating system. At the time of the platform's release, Google said it wanted Android to be a starting point for spurring innovation in developing mobile applications that would give users the same experience surfing the Web on their phone as they currently have on their desktop computers. In the two-plus years since its debut, Android has landed on several high-profile devices, including the Motorola Droid, the HTC myTouch 3G and the Samsung Moment. Now that the Motorola Backflip has debuted on AT&T's network, all four major carriers in the United States now support Android-based devices.
But while Android phones clearly generated a lot of market hype over the past two years, they have also largely been tied to exclusivity agreements that make their use dependent on individual carriers. With this in mind, Google late last year launched its own Nexus One smartphone, which will run on both the T-Mobile and Verizon networks. The Nexus One doesn't, however, mark any intention by Google to get heavily involved in the handset market. Rather, the company is using the Nexus One as a showcase for the Android platform's potential when running on a device that has the most cutting-edge hardware and software available on the market.