As reported by Drew Clark and others, high-ranking Google senior policy counsel Andrew McLaughlin told a Silion Valley crowd that “Net neutrality will ultimately be solved by competition in the long-run…Cutting the FCC out the picture would probably be a smart move. It is much better to think of this as an FTC or unfair competition type of problem.” It doesn’t appear at the moment that his view is official Google policy. But it underscores why we have never been confident that the corporate supporters of network neutrality, especially Microsoft, Yahoo!, IAC, and Google, could ultimately be counted upon to place the public interest before their own corporate futures. The Google’s and Yahoo!’s of the new media world are fearful of fostering public policies that would ultimately rein-in their efforts to collect huge amounts of personal data about each of us—so they can deliver ubiquitous interactive advertising and branded entertainment. As we’ve noted in the past, word from friendly policymakers is that Google and the coalition have done a terrible job lobbying for network neutrality rules. These developments underscore why those concerned about the future of the public interest and the digital era must quickly move beyond the policy realm. The real decisions about the quality and diversity of our digital media system in the short term will be primarily determined–sadly–in the marketplace.
We note that our friends at savetheinternet have written that Google still firmly supports network neutrality legislation, including the Dorgan/Snowe/Markey proposals. They have a quote from a Google spokesperson saying so. But we believe still that all the key work to promote net neutrality will have to be done by the folks outside the “gang of six.”