Google and Verizon's Net neutrality manuevers: It's the money, honey

The two companies deny pact to end Net neutrality, but other forces are working against Internet's foundational principle

Net neutrality is making headlines again. According to reports in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Google and Verizon have been canoodling in an attempt to reach a pact that will give Verizon more moola in exchange for preferential treatment to Google's data packets.

Both sides deny this, of course.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Cringely makes a case for Net neutrality in light of Google's recent troubles with China. | Stay up to date on all Robert X. Cringely's observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

Nuh-uh, says Verizon in its official policy blog.

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Liar liar pants on fire, says Google on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the FCC has just ended quiet negotiations in its secret clubhouse with various stakeholders in an attempt to reach a Net neutrality compromise. Whether the FCC took its toys and went home in reaction to the talks Google and Verizon both deny having is still a mystery.

What's at stake here? Let's start by following the money.

According to a recent report by the Sunlight Foundation, forces opposing Net neutrality (big broadband providers like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, as well as telecom-centric trade groups and unions like the NCTA and the CWA) outspent pro-Net neutrality forces (Google, Yahoo, Amazon, and so on) by a margin of four to one. The NoNetNeuts spend nearly $20 million on lobbyists in the first quarter of 2010, and the ProNetNeuts roughly $5 million.

In DC, of course, money talks and principles walk. It's a simple formula: The folks that spend the most money trying to buy laws they prefer are almost always the ones most likely to recoup that investment many times over from whatever that legislation ultimately decrees.

Yes, the big ISPs and their cronies have legitimate concerns. All bits are not really created equal. The quality-of-service requirements for Web pages and email are not the same as for voice and video. ISPs are unlikely to invest in the technology required to prioritize certain types of bits unless they can recoup their investment -- again and again and again. Without that, the Internet will never truly become the end-all, be-all delivery system for phone, television, data, and so on. Broadband speeds in the United States will continue to suck, relative to other developed nations.

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