Google evolves in the land of legalized bribery:
Google has not always been taken seriously in Washington. When co-founder Sergey Brin visited Capitol Hill two years ago, he had trouble persuading members of Congress to meet with him. The company didn’t bother to open an office in the District until 2005, when it hired Alan B. Davidson, formerly of the Center for Democracy and Technology, to tackle Internet policy issues. A year later, Google hired Robert Boorstin, who held several positions in the Clinton administration.
When the debate over the ability of Internet service providers to favor certain Web content for a fee, a concept known as network neutrality, heated up last summer, Google was late to the scene. It initially depended on public interest groups to lobby on its behalf.
Since then, Google has expanded its Washington presence. Besides increasing its effort to sell its services to government agencies, Google has taken what it calls a “Googley” approach to politics by seeking the business of political campaign managers and starting a public policy blog. Last week, the online video site YouTube, which is owned by Google, sponsored a debate between the Democratic presidential candidates.
The company recently hired Johanna Shelton, formerly on the staff of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), an influential member of the House telecommunications subcommittee. Google also frequently invites prominent politicians to tour its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. But its 2006 congressional lobbying budget of about $770,000, according to public disclosures, is dwarfed by the $21 million spent by AT&T and $14.4 million spent by Verizon the same year.
Unlike many campaigns that use well-connected lobbyists to persuade members of Congress, Google and its opponents have fought this battle on paper, using their lawyers to make their arguments in filings to the FCC.
It’s unfortunate that our political decisions are for sale, but it is a small consolation to see somebody with money who’s on the right side making a dent.
Google is on the right side with this issue just like they were on net neutrality. This is a logical extension of net neutrality that could offer the public things like wireless neutrality, forcing all the telecoms to play on the same field so the consumer can decide. Yes, it’s very free market, enough to please a slightly drunk Cato staffer.
The telecoms want to buy up every bit of bandwidth they can and lock out the competition; this is simply how they function. Corporations will naturally drift towards monopoly.
My problem is I’m a people person. Real people, not legal artificial persons like corporations. Everybody who’s reading a blog, rightwing Nazi or leftwing Commie, can certainly understand the importance of keeping communication infrastructures uniformly open to all.
Google is the underdog here, but grassroots power and the weight of the Internet in political debate are powerful allies. I foresee Google’s inevitable victory.