James Butler's Blog

Behind Closed Doors

August 06, 2010 04:57

Google and Verizon are the latest victims of the news that they have been in "closed door" discussions about things Internet. According to themthey are not talking about issues that might affect "net neutrality". According to those who pushed the news out to the media, they are talking about issues that might affect "net neutrality".

So what's the big deal? Should companies like Google and Verizon be allowed to have "closed door" discussions about anything?

Why not?

First of all ... it's rude. When you are playing with other people's interests, as any discussion about whether to allow or rate-limit traffic on the public Internet would, you have an obligation to protect and even defend those interests, even if they are not your primary interests. It's easy to see that neither Google nor Verizon have the same goals as you and I do, or the same goals as lesser companies might, but they still have the responsibility to make certain they do not keep those other goals from becoming achievable.

This is especially true when they stand to benefit greatly from any private agreement, as would be the case, here, if the leakers' stated reasons for the discussions are to be believed.

Secondly ... meeting behind closed doors prevents others in the same class from participating. With a public enterprise like the Internet, this is akin to warfare, as two of the largest companies in their respective fields seek to form a private coalition to the exclusion of everyone else.

Basically Google is saying, "We're getting our best deal. We don't care about anything else."

It's, again, rude. And not a little anti-competitive.

In my opinion, Verizon is the more-guilty party in this bit of rudeness. They are the gatekeepers of the public trust, not Google. Verizon would be the greater beneficiary, too, because they would gain additional revenue without needing to do anything differently, or to expend resources of their own. Google, at least, would be one of the victims in this power play, as they would be expending resources simply to keep a door that is already open ... open. Verizon decides when to shut it.

So the bottom line is that when it comes to public resources, and I'm also looking at you, Governments of the world, openness and transparency are the right thing to do, both in fairness and as a protection for the public who actually "owns" the resource in question (the Internet) against abuses by those in power.

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