Being a journalist gives me an in-built mistrust of large conglomerates, and a natural siding with the eternal underdogs, whoever they happen to be; put two people in a boxing ring – one short and one tall – I’ll cheer for the short guy every time.
Hence my growing, stomach-tightening suspicion towards the now-gigantic Internet search engine, Google.
With its newest move marrying Verizon in what both companies are calling a “non-deal," but what actually amounts to a joining of forces and policy to create a strategic direction that will culminate in an “Elite Internet”: two Internets – one for the commoners, the other for people with lots of money.
Both companies’ heads, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, want to brush aside this rather inconvenient media speculation about an Elite Internet, a little like BP found it inconvenient to answer journalists' questions about the Gulf oil spill. Thankfully, though, people like me and others with a critical nature, won’t let them re-spin their see-through argument.
So this news, aside from meaning it’s likely to kill smaller Internet service providers and their businesses, is a stunning example of where America and big businesses repeatedly lose touch with reality and attempt to create their own through bullying (see Goldman Sachs and economic meltdown as a recent example). The pharmaceutical companies have done it here, so have the oil companies and now, American People, you’re about to let the gate keepers of your Internet information do it too.
This may be a country where you can fulfill your dreams – and that is amazing and why I love it – but do you seriously want all the content, videos and movies you can now get free to suddenly come at a cost when you log on the web from your cellphone?
Google and Verizon want to make an entirely new – and this is the worst part – censored Internet that you will be provided with when you’re looking at the web on your phone, different to the web you will find on your home computer or laptop.
And anyone who can’t afford to be on that Elite Internet will be kicked off.
Verizon Wireless – which is the business trading name of the Cellco Partnership, a joint U.S.-U.K. telecommunications company – has allegedly got 93 million subscribers to its network in the United States. This is a large number of people it can influence in conjunction with Google’s international monopoly on running what we see on the Internet and how information is managed therein.
So, I say, is it time to shoot a warning shot across Google’s bow?
Google has already upset the book industry with its copyright manipulations of books it scans and publishes online at the same time as it, rather clandestinely, attempts to take over the book distribution business with the, as yet little known, “Google Cloud” which could destroy many small booksellers worldwide.
Google is under police investigation and upset hundreds of people in Australia by invading their privacy whilst taking pictures for Google’s Street View (the Australian government has poured scorn on Google’s business methods and its potentially immoral approach to business, basically calling Google a bunch of “criminals” for “accidentally” breaking Australia’s privacy laws and downloading thousands of people’s personal data as Google’s Street View vans passed by people’s homes).
Google is in big trouble in big China. That one caused an international diplomatic row.
And now Google is – in what smacks of one of those gloriously enticing American conspiracy theories – attempting to entirely re-mould the free public service that is the Internet and make you and business owners pay for it.
So, what can you do?
What about go use Yahoo or Bing instead, just for a couple of days. See how Google likes being taken down a peg. Okay, so it might not make much of an impact, but big corporations are afraid of only one thing and one thing alone: people power.
Careful how you tread Google, we’re watching you.