Not long ago, Google execs would have been popping champagne corks over today’s big news from the Federal Communications Commission. The agency’s 3-2 vote to strictly regulate broadband Internet fulfilled a long-shot push by the company and its allies that started nearly a decade ago.
Indeed, the FCC decision marked a stinging defeat for telecoms like Comcast and AT&T, among the most entrenched and moneyed lobbying forces in Washington. They are Goliaths who lost a tough Washington battle, highlighting a shifting political powerbase.
And yet from Google today: crickets. Instead, the company deferred to one of its Washington trade groups, the Internet Association, which hewed to lawyerly language that called the decision, which prohibits paid fast lanes on the Internet for companies that can afford it, “a welcome step” while affirming the organization remains “outcome-oriented” and needs to review the full text of the decision.
The short answer is that Google grew up. Its transformation into a corporate colossus reordered its Washington agenda as it rapidly assembled a lobbying apparatus to promote it. For one, new partnerships with other companies complicated its once near-ideological commitment to the open Internet. Back in 2010, the company angered consumer advocates by negotiating with Verizon — a net neutrality boogeyman — on a framework that would allow Internet service providers to charge content creators for zippier delivery. The plan never materialized but it clearly signaled the company’s evolution. And as Google solidified its dominance, its need to enshrine the most aggressive form of a regulatory regime diminished.
“The logic of networks suggests that the bigger Google gets, the less it has to gain from net neutrality,” says Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu, who first coined the term in 2003. “Now, half the examples out there are like, ‘The good thing about net neutrality is that some guy in his garage can challenge Google.’As always folks, be careful what you wish for! Have an amazing weekend, I know I will!