Comic Update: Define “Evil”

August 10, 2010

I’m not always comfortable with labeling technology-related positions as “evil” or “good” considering the difficulties of applying morality to anything in the 21st century without being told that it’s all subjective. However, considering the importance of the Internet and equal access to its content in today’s society, I think I’ll ask you all to excuse me when I say that net neutrality is a good thing.

Unless you’re a greedy content provider corporation interested in your bottom line. Then it might be a pain in your ass.

But since I’m not a greedy content provider, I’m going to go ahead and say that the recent joint proposal for an “open Internet” that Google and Verizon have made public is them knowingly abusing terminology, trying to falsely claim support for a neutrality their actions oppose, and are therefore being “evil”.

Today’s comic provides a desert-themed metaphor to my opinion on the topic, featuring Faruk Ateş and Manu Sporny, who stumble through the dunes with the Squirrel before encountering a familiar-seeming water merchant.

Let’s break down the timeline

  • The New York Times publishes an article claiming Google and Verizon are nearing a web tier deal, which Manu Sporny tweets about here, tying it into a threat to net neutrality.
  • Web citizens share their thoughts. Faruk’s pretty clear on his opinion here, which I think sums up how a lot of us feel.
  • Google and Verizon jointly announce a proposal for the “open Internet”… sort of. An open Internet for those with wired connections.
  • Web citizens share their thoughts. This blog post by Jeff Sayre indicates some serious problems with it, specifically in their fifth and sixth elements of the proposal. In particular, they feel that “additional, differentiated online services” should be exempt, and explicitly are stating that net neutrality shouldn’t apply to the wireless Internet, but only the wired one. Other people, like Faruk, are more brief but share their thoughts clearly like he does here.

I’m aware there’s plenty of idiots on the Internet. But it’s absurd, and childish, to claim you’re not threatening net neutrality when you’re in fact doing that exact thing and actually expect us to buy into the lie. They can try to pretend that how you access your water matters, but the fact is that water is water, regardless of whether you’re drinking with a straw or a spoon.

The op-ed piece that Google and Verizon put in the Washington Post today is just more attempts at obfuscation, claiming without any effort at being convincing that somehow the wireless access to the Internet makes it somehow a different Internet that should be subject to unique rules (or, better yet for them, no rules.)

I’m willing to say that manipulating the public through intentional deception (aka lying), especially on an issue as important as net neutrality, is evil. And it’s clear that Google and Verizon are (badly) attempting to do this for a mutual financial gain.

Welcome to being evil, Google.

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7 Responses to “Comic Update: Define “Evil””

  1. Personally, I disagree with the fundamental principle of this particular comic/blog post. The whole Google/Verizon proposal isn’t really comparable to evaporated water versus liquid water, it’s more comparable to tap water versus bottled water (or, probably more accurately would be a comparison between electricity and batteries). They are being delivered in two different manners. One is provided to you as a service, the other is provided as a specifically-measured good that you purchase. If you want more, you have to buy another package. You’re still getting the same end result, but you’re acquiring it in two very different ways.

    The bottom line is that the infrastructure just isn’t there for net neutrality to be a realistic goal at this point in the wireless sphere. Some things are going to have to take precedence over others, unfortunately. Do I like it? No. Do I understand it? Yes.

    The point that people seem to keep ignoring from the Google/Verizon proposal is the fact that they open the door to net neutrality in the wireless arena and are essentially giving the FCC (which is a whole different matter altogether, and seems to be completely under the radar to everyone writing on this subject) full authority to decide when wireless is ready for net neutrality.

    The way I see it, at least they’re trying to do something.

    All that said, I still enjoyed the comic. :)

  2. It has more to do with how different wireless networks are. Think of something like hot water in a household of many showers.
    Actually, I like Curtiss’ analogy about batteries and mains-power. Imagine if you were talking on your cell phone, and suddenly someone else comes up and plugs a lightbulb into it. Your phone would be all “WARNING LOW BATTERY” and you might lose the call.

    Brian Fling writes a well-context’d article here:

  3. Wait a minute… aren’t you two the PR reps for Verizon and Google?

  4. this agreement (the wireless part) isn’t actually about “net neutrality” but more about “quality of service”. prioritizing by content TYPE is very different that paying for content by one VENDOR to be prioritized.

    anyone who claims that “it’s the same internet, wired or -less” just doesn’t understand basic physics (ok, “electromagnetism” may not exactly be “basic”, but fundamentals are not that hard to grasp for a reasonably intelligent developer).

    and anyone who imagines that in a couple of years, mobile internet will take over, and we’ll all rip out cables from under our houses, is just a fool.

    when you fill up the internet tube to your house, you can just add another one (it may cost you, but still, you can *always* do it). when you fill up the spectrum, you are done, and the next person to watch youtube on your cell tower could make your call drop.

    i am not defending google (let alone verizon) here. they may be an “evil” profit-driven company, but they don’t posses the power to break the laws of physics (yet)!

  5. @Tom – Contrary to popular myth, squirrels have some familiarity with physics, especially when falling out of trees.

    I’m also strongly familiar with tube analogies.

    My problem with the exemption that is proposed for wireless carriers in regards to net neutrality is that their reasoning has nothing to do with bandwidth limitations, tubes, physics or youtube. Consider their sixth point:

    “Sixth, we both recognize that wireless broadband is different from the traditional wireline world, in part because the mobile marketplace is more competitive and changing rapidly. In recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace, under this proposal we would not now apply most of the wireline principles to wireless, except for the transparency requirement.”

    Their major points are competition and the “newness” of wireless access. Yet they want to be allowed immunity against rules such as: “wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition.”

    So the wireless providers are allowed to discriminate against content and services in a fashion that harms competition? Fan-freaking-tastic.

    How is that net neutrality in any sense? Yes, there’s a pipe, yes, there’s limits. But they want blanket immunity with the only limit that they’re being honest on why they shut off Skype “We don’t want competition” rather than being held to standards to prevent such behavior in the first place.

  6. It should come as no surprise that Google and Verizon are businesses looking to make some money. When they attempt to do so in a way that limits consumer choice and freedom, in a manner contrary to previously stated principals, that is “evil”.

    The other day I set out to take my kids to their doctor’s office. As the typical absent minded father I didn’t have the address with me and such things are best for entry in a GPS (mine lacks the whole “just off 495, after a right on a street that starts with ‘P’”). All I had was my P.O.S. Blackberry 8830. Do you think the silly thing’s web browser is up to the task of rendering the doctor’s web page to tease out the address of the office? Poorly designed web page or not, it works for IE6 but not on the BlackBerry.

    Anyhow, under Google and Verizon’s agreement they would not be under any obligation to provide real access to the internet. There would be an app for everything, unless they didn’t want an app for “that” because it provided too much competition. Suppose the Facebook app could not access the same features of the Google Android API that the Google Social app did? Mobile app developers rejoice! As consumers curse them while trying to find a Giant Supermarket that sells gasoline without the proper “app”.

    I have a gloomy vision of a future where you pay $100 a month to access something like AOL’s vision of the internet back in 1994. That should scare all of us enough to welcome the ham-fisted FCC into the fray to protect us. A stupid overlord is better than a really, really smart one.

  7. I’ll repeat here what I already tweeted: “The difference between wired and wireless is that the service providers think they can get away with screwing their customers”.