By Sara Jerome - 08/12/10 06:55 PM EDT
Liberal groups and consumer advocates are planning a rally at Google's Mountain View headquarters Friday, sounding off against what they see as a reversal of the company's long-held net-neutrality stances.
Google announced this week it has reached an agreement with Verizon on how Internet service providers should be regulated, a question that has divided Internet companies and access providers for years.
Free Press spokeswoman Liz Rose said Google's perceived reversal of its stance is what has the groups so incensed and explains why the protest is at Google's headquarters and not Verizon's. The rally includes the consumer advocacy group Free Press as well as liberal groups MoveOn.org and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, among others.
Progressive groups who interpreted the Google-Verizon agreement as Google reversing its previous policies are raising money around the tagline that Google is being "evil," a riff on its company slogan.
In particular, staunch net-neutrality supporters are upset the Google-Verizon agreement exempted wireless services from its toughest regulations and said phone and cable companies could offer "managed services," taking money from content and applications companies to fast-track their offerings over what the deal characterizes as the "non-public" Internet.
Internet companies, including IAC and Facebook, have also parted ways with Google on net neutrality, pushing for a different framework than the one the search giant proposed. Facebook and IAC each compete with Google on certain fronts. All three companies, and Free Press, are part of the Open Internet Coalition (OIC), which as a whole also expressed divergences from Google's views after the Verizon agreement was announced. OIC continues to push for rules for wireless service.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt argued this week that the agreement with Verizon is in keeping with Google's advocacy for an open Internet.
He also said Google was trying to show leadership with the deal, which led the Federal Communications Commission to end its own talks on the issue.
Preserving an open Internet is a policy priority for President Obama. Google spoke up on its agreement with Verizon on Thursday in an effort to dispel what it characterized as “myths” that have arisen about a proposal for net neutrality rules unveiled this week.
“We don’t expect everyone to agree with every aspect of our proposal, but there has been a number of inaccuracies about it, and we do want to separate fact from fiction,” Richard Whitt, telecom and media consel for the company, wrote in a blog post.
He argues that Google has been the leading corporate voice for net neutrality, and refutes the idea that it has sold out. It also acknowledges that “political realities” led it to make the agreement, which he said is not “perfect.”
“We’re not saying this solution is perfect, but we believe that a proposal that locks in key enforceable protections for consumers is preferable to no protection at all,” he said.
—This post was updated at 2:13 p.m. to correct the location of the protest.
—This post was updated at 2:55 p.m. and 3:24 p.m.