Google Might Stop Violating 'Search Neutrality' If Anybody Knew What That Actually Meant

from the now-you're-just-making-things-up dept

Given Google's position on network neutrality, white space spectrum, competition and other topics, it's not too surprising that they've drawn the ire of the larger telecom operators like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. All three companies have massive lobbying operations, and have been busily engaged in pressuring Uncle Sam to investigate Google on every front -- be it Google's acquisition of AdMob, or AT&T's claim that Google Voice is being used to unfairly block nuns. While companies like AT&T complain ceaselessly about how any and all government regulation is unnecessary, they're unsurprisingly trying to get more regulation applied to Google. Since at least 2007, carriers and their various policy tendrils have been trying to argue that Google should be regulated for violations of "search neutrality," though it's amusing to notice that it's now 2010, and nobody seems to know what the term even means:
"AT&T went so far as to tell the FCC that nothing it could possible do would be as worrisome as what Google was up to. "And more than any physical network provider, search engines pose concerns that the [rulemaking] identifies as a potential basis for government intervention: They 'determine the information ... that customers access online' through algorithms that highlight some information, favor certain websites, and even omit some sites altogether. As a result, they can 'deter market entry in areas that would benefit consumers and damage[e] potential entrants.' Just as search engines dominate the selection of winners and losers on the Internet, one search engine in particular -- Google's -- dominates the search engine market."

"Search neutrality" is an absurd notion, given that search algorithms by their very nature aren't neutral, and the entire purpose of search is to discriminate and point the user toward more pertinent results. Meanwhile, Google became a market leader by being good at what they do. Users have other options available if they feel that isn't the case, or if they find that Google is suddenly discriminating in terms of search results -- so Google can very quickly be punished should they begin to engage in ranking skulduggery. A company like AT&T, meanwhile, holds a physical monopoly in many markets -- leaving consumers with little to no option should AT&T choose to engage in anti-competitive behavior.

Search neutrality at its core is a term created by companies eager to bog Google down in bad regulation -- the same kind of bad regulation companies like AT&T believe Google is foisting upon them in the network neutrality debate. The difference, again, is that Google's customers can vote with their wallet, while most broadband customers have few if any alternatives (which is why we argue that tackling competition should take priority). Meanwhile, ISPs repeatedly insist that network neutrality rules aren't necessary because there's no evidence of ISP foul play -- yet here they are -- pushing for nebulous regulations without providing evidence of Google abuse (aside from a few people whining late last year that they weren't ranked high enough for their liking).

All of this simply highlights how the entire network neutrality debate has been so polluted by lobbyist, lawyer and think tank nonsense and hypocrisy (on all sides) -- that it has just completely degraded into incoherent rhetoric. Whatever you think of the need for neutrality regulation, it's important to remember the network neutrality debate truly took off in 2005, with AT&T telling Google they wanted to charge content companies already paying for bandwidth an extra toll -- just because. AT&T was loudly and clearly told by Internet users that this was idiotic idea -- though the conversation seems to have gone completely downhill from there in terms of actually making sense.

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Filed Under: search, search neutrality
Companies: at&t, google


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2010 @ 11:06am

    I'm lost. But what does this really mean? Does it mean a user can go to Google and if you don't like Google Results, it can send your query to other good search engines such as Excite.com, Ask.com or Lycos.com?

    That's great! I need something to replace New Bing (which is like "New Coke") with.

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