Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned by future of the Internet access in the United States. According to a front-page New York Times story published on August 4th, 2010, a deal between Google and Verizon would allow “Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content's creators are willing to pay for the privilege." This will only apply for wired connexions. Both firms however denied the agreement. The day after, the Federal Communications Commission stopped broadband policy discussions with Google, Verizon, Skype and AT&T, citing too much disagreement.
"This type of arrangement is putting Net Neutrality in peril. Google and Verizon would be able to decide what websites have priority over others ", said Reporters Without Borders. "We are asking the FCC to restart these discussions. It is their responsibility and duty to ensure that commercial decisions made by these providers do not endanger the free flow of information. The neutrality principle has made the Internet an open, creative and free space. It is already being threatened by the world’s authoritarian states and It would further suffer if the US allowed for such discriminatory arrangements."
However, on Wednesday August 4th, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told reporters on the sidelines of the Techonomy conference in Truckee, California, that "people get confused about Net neutrality". According to him, "if you have one data type, like video, you don't discriminate against one person's video in favor of another. It's OK to discriminate across different types...There is general agreement with Verizon and Google on this issue". During the same conference, Schmidt also declared : "The technology of course is neutral but society is not fundamentally ready."
Reporters Without Borders strongly disagrees with this argument.
1 - It is not "OK" to discriminate across different types of Internet access. Unfortunately, different governments already use such discrimination within their own national Intranets. We know how badly it can harm freedom of expression. This is a direct threat to freedom of expression. Our organization is hoping that in a country such as the US, access to online content would not be given priority because of a commercial agreement. Once again; free speech is put at stake because of business.
2 - A deal sealed between Google and Verizon would be contradictory with the Schmidt’s declaration that "Technology is neutral ". By having this special deal, Google and Verizon would have their technologies and products subject to a system of preference over others, the very antithesis of neutrality. What would happen to independent voices online who do not fit both firms standards ?
Last April, Reporters Without Borders asked Congress to take a stand in favor of Net neutrality after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the Federal Communications Commission lacks the authority under existing legal framework to prevent Internet service providers from blocking or slowing specific websites. "Without any back up, the FCC won’t be able to reach a set of rules of guidelines. The companies themselves would therefore be able to reach an agreement of their own. This could be disastrous for free speech", Reporters Without Borders concluded.