Verizon and Google’s Net Neutrality Agreement Explained: What Does it Mean to You?

verizon and googles net neutrality agreement explained what does it mean to you google

Google has to be thinking twice about that “don’t be evil” bit permanently lodged in its corporate motto. After meeting behind closed doors with Verizon, the company emerged on Monday with a set of guidelines for allegedly preserving net neutrality, which many of the concept’s most virulent supporters say grinds the principle to dust. How can the two sides see the same language so differently? What are the stakes for the average American? Here’s a quick overview of what Google and Verizon’s net neutrality agreement actually proposes in laymen’s terms – and what it means for you.

What is net neutrality, anyway?

Remember when Senator Ted Stevens described the Internet as a “series of tubes? More than just a monument to the ignorance of politicians, that was a cantankerous, near-senile old man’s attempt to explain net neutrality. Let’s see if we can do better by stealing Google’s own description from 2006.

Forget the tubes and imagine a highway. When five o’clock hits, everybody sits in traffic as the roads fill up with cars – which represent data, here. With net neutrality in place, every piece of data waits in line the same way the cars do on the highway. It’s fair. The lack of net neutrality is like throwing down cones to make the left lane a high-speed toll lane. Can’t pay? Sit in line with the schmucks.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but it gets across the basic principle: Rather than splitting a public asset (roads or in this case, wireless airwaves) equitably, the guys with the most cash get the rule of the roost.

What did Verizon and Google agree on?

On the surface, the companies agreed that net neutrality was a good thing and that the FCC should be able to enforce fines for companies that don’t abide by it, and that carriers should be forced to share information on how they route traffic for transparency. You can read the exact language here.

They also created a lot of loopholes and exceptions, which is why a lot of folks are all bent out of shape by it.

What loopholes and exceptions?

The document has two major exceptions to net neutrality as it is written.

The first, and most broad, basically exempts wireless carriers from all the rules except transparency. In other words, they can play favorites and route traffic however they want, as long as they tell us how they’re doing it. Only wired carriers would be subject to net neutrality principles, and even they would have some creative leeway.

The second allows for “differentiated managed services” that would be exempt from the neutrality given to other traffic. The document gives the examples of “health care monitoring, gaming, smart grid, and advanced educational services.” Although it explicitly claims these could not be use to circumvent rules, it provides no guidelines for which types of services warrant exemption and which belong in the same stream as everyone else.

What do net neutrality advocates make of it?

They’re enraged, mostly.

Public Knowledge, a public interest group concerned with digital issues, has made “Google sold you out” its war cry. “This agreement would, among other things, allow Verizon to prioritize applications and content at whim over its mobile broadband network,” the group claims.

The SaveTheInternet.com coalition says “Google is about to cut a deal with Verizon that would end the Internet as we know it.” Putting it more bluntly, “this deal puts the company in bed with the devil.”

Why are Verizon and Google making laws for themselves?

The guidelines set up between Google and Verizon aren’t actually laws anyone else has to adhere too – they’re simply a “proposed Internet framework.” The companies hope the FCC will adopt the language and cement it as the law of the land, but for the moment, they’re just words on a page.

Recently, the FCC has been courting telecom companies – including Google and Verizon – for input on net neutrality rules, but it nixed these meetings last week under intense public scrutiny over the lack of public input. Many critics also question why the FCC is asking the companies it should be regulating for input on how they should be regulated – like a parent asking a four-year-old what would be a reasonable bed time.

What will happen if we lose net neutrality?

In practice, this would mean that a service provider like Verizon could charge a company like Google for access to that special high-speed toll lane for data.

As an end user, that might mean that Mapquest and Bing Maps now load much slower than Google Maps. Hotmail and Yahoo mail load slower than Gmail. Yahoo and Bing searches take longer than Google searches. The plethora of choices you take for granted on the Web begin to evaporate when the biggest player in any space is able to pay for priority handling, shutting out competitors.

Internet service providers could also decide to throttle down services they see as threats to their own business. For example, Comcast could choke bandwidth for sites like Hulu in order to force consumers into its own cable TV packages.

Computing

Best Buy’s latest sale takes up to $300 off the best Chromebooks

Looking to purchase a new Chromebook? You're in for some luck. Best Buy's latest sale is taking up to $300 off some of the best premium Chromebooks, including the HP Chromebook x2.
Computing

Wi-Fi helps connect all of our devices at high-speed, but what exactly is it?

What is Wi-Fi? It's a technology we all use everyday to connect all of our portable devices, but understanding how it works and how far it's come from its humble beginnings is another thing entirely.
Smart Home

What exactly is Alexa? Where does she come from? And how does she work?

While "Alexa" has become synonymous with products like the Amazon Echo, you can't actually go out and buy an "Alexa." So what is Alexa? How does she work? Here's everything you need to know about Amazon's virtual assistant.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Computing

DLSS is finally arriving in games, but how does Nvidia's super-sampling actually work?

Nvidia's new DLSS technology is exciting, but what is it and how does it work? It's not quite anti-aliasing and it's not quite super sampling. It's a little bit of both and the end results can be impressive.
Computing

All signs point to a new Apple external display in 2019. Will it be 6K or 8K?

Will there be an Apple Display 2019? It looks like Apple is getting ready to announce a new monitor, after canceling its old Thunderbolt Display back in 2016. But what will this new display look like? Here's what we know.
Computing

Microsoft’s Presidents Day Sale cuts price of some Surface laptops by up to $200

It is a great time to save on Windows 10 laptops. Microsoft's retail store is running a sale on some of the best tablets and laptops, cutting pricing by up to $200 on the Surface Laptop 2 and more.
Gaming

Here’s how to set up a virtual private network (VPN) on your Xbox One

Online privacy is more important now than it's ever been, and gaming is happening online more than ever before. Here's a quick guide on how to set up a VPN for your Xbox One so you game in safe anonymity.
Computing

New Chrome feature aimed at preventing websites from blocking Incognito Mode

A new Chrome feature will prevent websites from blocking Chrome users as they browse using Incognito Mode. The feature is supposed to fix a known loophole that allows websites to detect and block those using Incognito Mode.
Photography

What’s the difference between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic?

Lightroom CC has evolved into a capable photo editor, but is it enough to supplant Lightroom Classic? We took each program for a test drive to compare the two versions and see which is faster, more powerful, and better organized.
Computing

Reluctant to give your email address away? Here's how to make a disposable one

Want to sign up for a service without the risk of flooding your inbox with copious amounts of spam and unwanted email? You might want to consider using disposable email addresses via one of these handy services.
Computing

Chrome is a fantastic browser, but is is still the best among new competitors?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.
Computing

Don't use streaming apps? Try the best free media players for your local music

Rather than using music-streaming apps, you may want something for playing your local music. Good news! There are some good alternatives. These are the best media players you can download for free on Windows.
Mobile

Need speed? Qualcomm unveils the Snapdragon X55, the world’s fastest 5G modem

Qualcomm is preparing for an even faster future: The silicon giant just unveiled a second generation 5G modem for smartphones, promising blistering download speeds as high as 7Gbps.