Vint Cerf, Internet pioneer and Google Inc VP, has told reporters that if the US Senate does not pass net neutrality laws then Google would readily file antitrust complaints against network operators that discriminated against Internet content providers.
Net neutrality laws would prevent broadband network owners from charging for prioritized content and services over their own pipes. Proposed net neutrality legislation was unanimously defeated in the US House of Representatives recently.
But a US Senate Commerce Committee last week just narrowly defeated a net neutrality amendment to a broader telecommunications reform bill currently making its way through the full Senate.
Last week, the vote was tied with 10 Democrats and a single Republican senate voting for the net neutrality amendment, while the remaining 12 Republican senators voted against it. Procedurally, the tied vote meant a defeat, but politically it means the issue is sure to be hotly debated on the full Senate floor in coming months.
Whether any net neutrality language will make its way into the final Senate telecommunications bill is, of course, unknown. But given that Republicans typically favor a more hands-off approach to regulation and that the Senate is a Republican majority, the odds are higher for a net neutrality defeat than a win.
A resolution on the final bill may not happen before the end of the year.
Google has been among the most vocal proponents of net neutrality. Google’s chief executive previously posted an open letter to Congress on its web site and on some Google blogs urging users to contact their local politicians to support net neutrality.
But Cerf upped the ante this week at a press conference in Bulgaria. If we are not successful in our arguments … then we will simply have to wait until something bad happens and then we will make our case known to the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, Cerf reportedly said.
My company, along with many others, believes that the Internet should stay open and accessible to everyone equally, he told reporters. We are worried that some of the broadband service providers will interfere with that principle and will attempt to use their control over broadband transport facilities to interfere with the services of competitors.
Specifically, Google and its fellow net neutrality proponents, which include fellow heavyweights Amazon.com, eBay, Microsoft and Yahoo, are concerned that operators would denigrate quality of their free services over their pipes.
That concern is based on the assumption that the absence of net neutrality laws would pave the way for a two-tiered Internet with a fast line for content from network owners, affiliates and customers; and a slow lane for everybody else.
Of course, operators argue that they have the right to charge for prioritized content and in doing so would be able to build out their networks to ensure prompt delivery of certain online services and content. After all, operators say, they should be entitled to recoup the significant investments they’ve made in their networks.
A Google spokesperson said Google remains committed to working with Congress to ensure that net neutrality legislation is passed that will safeguard free and fair access to the Internet.
If the carriers abuse their control over the broadband market before Congress acts we hope the appropriate Federal agencies will step in on behalf of American consumers and businesses, said the spokesperson.