The Failed PR Strategy for Google’s Net Neutrality Plan

August 13th, 2010

If you don’t know what net neutrality is, then ask yourself, “why don’t I know about the single most important issue regarding the future of communication?”

The largest names in telecommunications are proposing to choose which companies can decide how fast (or slow) to transmit content.  Chief among them are Google and Verizoncalled out specifically by the New York Times on August 4 for holding secret talks for 10 months to overturn net neutrality.

There are strong arguments for and against net neutrality.  And, because the issue generates such passion, advocates of any position must explain their views clearly – especially if they are mega-corporate interests whose roles can be perceived negatively.

In this sense, Google has a lot to answer for.  Since the first three words of its corporate code of conduct actually read, “Don’t be evil,” the stealth talks on this vital issue have acute irony.  The code of conduct goes on to read:

… the recognition that everything we do in connection with our work at Google will be, and should be, measured against the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct.

Google did not comment for the original Times story.  But the next day, both Google and Verizon declared the Times story wrong (Google decided to tweet its denial).  After five full days of silence on its company blog (and a firestorm of debate online), Google/Verizon released a “Joint Policy Proposal for an Open Internet,” which makes it clear the Times story was completely accurate.  The blog post itself admits Verizon and Google were meeting for “nearly a year”!  Even worse, the proposal is an artfully worded plan, effectively, to defeat net neutrality – something for which Google had previously professed strong support.  So widely panned was its proposal, Google was compelled to dispel “myths” in a follow up blog post.

Just so you remember what is at stake, consider this line from the proposed legislative framework for Congress:

“Regulatory Authority: The FCC would have exclusive authority to oversee broadband Internet access service, but would not have any authority over Internet software applications, content or services.  Regulatory authorities would not be permitted to regulate broadband Internet access service.”

So, just to be clear: Google was not meeting with Verizon for a year (even though it was), and believes that the government has no regulatory authority over broadband service – despite heading to Capitol Hill four years ago to ask the federal government to favor net neutrality (something it now wants to kill).

For a titan like Google to have such a ham-fisted PR strategy in the wake of being implicated in these activities is shocking.  Google PR Strategy = grade F.

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