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Friday 6 August 2010

This concerns us all: Is Google doing evil?

Some people think so. People better informed than am I think so. And it's nothing to do with its recent rather shady history: spying on public Wifi spots, intruding on privacy with its Street View program, sailing close to the wind with its grabbing of material that might be or might not be copyright, the privacy time bomb of its Google Watch website, and on...

No, this time the word is that Google (motto: Don't be evil) is about to end net neutrality, the fundamental principle (until now) that the net is ungoverned and therefore equally open to access by one and all. The word is that Google is about to enter into a bilateral agreement with an outfit called Verizon whereby Minders will be appointed, Gatekeepers if you prefer, to control who goes where and when and how fast. How fast, because part of the plan is to set up fast lanes for heavy users of video and music.

Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive has explained that Google is merely trying to reach an agreement about what is meant by net neutrality. To me that sounds as though he is trying to change what is meant by it. It seems pretty clear that they are trying to agree exemptions from it, including the possibility of Internet operators offering premium services to some Internet companies
- including, no doubt, Google.

Certainly there are many who fear that Google will be buying preferential access for itself. Not so, not me Guv, says Google. I just saw this fight brewing in the playground and thought that someone ought to get between them. Nip it in the bud before it gets bad. And to be honest, it has been getting bad. There have been worries that the web could break down altogether. The BBC is probably the biggest culprit with its i-player. But there has been an exponential explosion of streaming of all sorts. Nevertheless, the principle that you have as much right to the broadband to sent Aunt Jane your holiday video as the BBC has to make its programmes available to the world, is an important and highly regarded one.

Google is its usual reassuring self. It intends, it has said, that any discrimination should be only across data types and not within them. Come again?
Well, they will not give preference to the BBC's colossal streaming excercise over your video to Uncle George, but they might well give such preference to another person's music. Across data types is okay then? Not sure how that helps... And at the end of the day, money will speak volumes, I have no doubt.

I do not like cliches. Should I be pleased that this level playing field is about to go?

Haiku 225

An important skill,
they overlook it in the schools
talking to yourself.


David Cranmer said...

I wish folks would leave the Net alone. They won't and that's when people need to stand up... but they won't.

Jim Murdoch said...

I actually thought that's how things were. Much as we like to equate the Internet with free things the fact is that it is a business. I pay for a certain speed of connection. I pay for my website. If I had the money I'd pay for a faster connection and a fancier website that I can produce myself. There isn't an even playing field in the real world and so why ever should there be one in the virtual world? Not sure how I feel about all this.

Elisabeth said...

It's tough out there, Dave.

I'm inclined to agree with Jim: There is no such thing as a level playing field. There never was and there never will be.

That said, we ought still to aspire to one, but at the same time we need not kid ourselves that we have one.

I've noticed, even on Google, money talks.

Thanks for drawing my attention to this, Dave. It matters a great deal especially for those who might try to earn a living via the net. Maybe one day that will be many if not most of us.

Unknown said...

I too agree with Jim - nothing is ever free - it may appear that way beut bhind the scenes whirring away are the cogs of finance. Sad know

Eryl said...

This all seems dismally inevitable but the way the internet has worked thus far gives me hope.

Tabor said...

Once the net became the big economic pot that it has become, those that move money from one place to another want control...and they may very well get it! There are all kinds of arguments for more control including that fearful one of security.

CiCi said...

It's too bad you aren't allowed to perfect the art of talking to yourself while in school; it may help keep you awake.

Unknown said...

I think the concept of net neutrality is larger than the fact that we pay for a net connection or a website. While there may be no free lunch, my experience has been that those with money end up getting a lot more free lunches than those without. What we are talking about is equality in the ability to provide our own content on the net. If the website I pay for is strwaming video or music, under a change in net neutrality, my website's ability to actually project content into the netstream could indeed be compromised. To see a model of how this works, just look at the history of independent, locally-owned, non-franchise business in the US over the past 50+ years. Is the loss of "Joe's Burger Stand" in favor of McDonald's an improvement?

Dave King said...

To all
Didn't make myself clear enough, obviously. I didn't mean free as in not having to cough up your hard-earned readies, but as in unhindered, nobody to say where you can go and what you can do.

Dave King said...

I fear you are spot on on both points.

I too am nt sure how I feel. As I wrote in the post, something has to be done, and maybe sooner rather than later. There has been an even playing field until now, I would have thought. At least in the sense that Mr X having more lolly than you or I has no priority over us. He may have a faster broadband, but when the web is running slowly, he has no special fast lane reserved for him.

I think that may be the one thing we'll all end up agreeing about - it does matter. Oh, and money talks!

True, but probably inevitable.

Yup, I've just agreed with you! It is only a reason for hope, I suppose, whilst it remains a model for the future - or at least an aspiration.

We don't yet know in detail what Google is proposing or hoping for, but it doesn't seem to have any bearing on security. Just convenience - and, if you like, democracy.

Exactlt - and many other accomplishments would become possible.

I agree with you, what might happen is that the web would become as the TV networks are: in the control of three or four supercompanies.

steven said...

dave i'm not informed enough to be able to comment on the google story but i will tell you that i talk to myself as a matter of course when working through tasks in my class. in fact it's advocated as a model for organizing your thinking where i teach! of course there are many of my students who talk in their heads - and really i'm glad of that. can you imagine a classload of people all babbling and burbling away to themselves?!!! have a great day. steven

Anonymous said...

Fox News is behind this, no doubt or some of their henchmen. I am thinking maybe this is the end as there will be the "Watchers."

Unknown said...

I'm sure that this does boil down to money, ultimately!

Rachel Fenton said...

They supply and we are the poor addicted users. First they give it to you for free (though, nothing is ever really free), and then they wait for you to become hooked and then they threaten to take it away from you. Only one thing to do - mass cold turkey and remind them they need us!

Like the aptness of your Haiku.

Jinksy said...

Talking to yourself? Isn't that merely THINKING? It should be done always before opening mouth, no? LOL

Dave King said...

I've been talking to myself quite a lot over this web business. I'm no expert either - just hoping for a few pointers from the cognoscenti.

Abraham Lincoln
Ah, watching the henchmen, is that?

My fear, too. I was hoping for some evidence that it wasn't so.

Very interesting idea ...but wouldn't we need to use the web to organise the mass cold turkey?

It can be thinking, yes, but I guess you can talk to yourself as well as others without engaging the brain.