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Google Defends Net Neutrality Proposal

Stung by the backlash against the legislative proposal it presented with Verizon, Google says the objections raised are myths.

Google on Thursday tried to counter the barrage of negative press it has received since it proposed a network neutrality framework to assist the Federal Communications Commission as it refines its national broadband policy.

Reaction to the Google/Verizon proposal has been unusually harsh, exemplified by an article from Wired's Ryan Singel titled "Why Google Became A Carrier-Humping, Net Neutrality Surrender Monkey."

Even veteran Google Watchers like Danny Sullivan, among the least likely to be hysterical about alleged ills attributed to Google by critics, came down hard on the company in a piece titled "How Google & Apple Sold Out The Cell Phone Revolution."

It's one thing for groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, and MoveOn.org to condemn Google. Advocacy groups will do that.

It's another for members of the tech press corps to rise up and bite the hand that usually feeds them very well -- you should see the cafeteria at Google's San Francisco office, with its stunning views of the Bay Bridge.

And with FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps issuing a statement suggesting that the proposal has many problems and that the interests of consumers have to be put "in front of the interests of giant corporations," Google clearly had to respond.

The company's disbelief at its drubbing is palpable.

Calling accusations that it has sold out on network neutrality a myth, Google declared that no other company has worked as tirelessly to support an open Internet has it has.

Of course the past isn't the issue. It's the present and future that matter in the context of the Google/Verizon proposal. To move forward, Google argues that a compromise is necessary because lawmakers in Washington have avoided decisive action on net neutrality for years and appear likely to continue doing so.

"At this time there are no enforceable protections -- at the Federal Communications Commission or anywhere else -- against even the worst forms of carrier discrimination against Internet traffic," said Richard Whitt, Google's telecom and media counsel, in a blog post. "With that in mind, we decided to partner with a major broadband provider on the best policy solution we could devise together. 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."

Whitt goes on to challenge other criticisms: that the proposal is a step backwards for the Internet; that the proposal would eliminate network neutrality over wireless networks; that the proposal will lead to the "cannibalization" of the Internet; that Google is partnering with Verizon to secure support for Android; and that the proposal represents two companies trying to legislate the future of the Internet.

Such charges are myths, Whitt insists.

Whether Whitt's rebuttal will restore Google's luster as the white knight of openness remains to be seen. But in the meantime, Google will have to contend with events like a protest at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters planned for Friday by Free Press and MoveOn.org.

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