Power, of course, abhors a vacuum. So while Google's joint proposal with Verizon was a vicious slap in the face to advocates of net neutrality — especially in view of the company's previous admirable support of the concept — under the circumstances it should come as no surprise. Consider the predatory vigor Google displayed when it cornered the digital market on books whose copyright has expired. Vito Corleone would have admired its ruthless elegance. However, Robert Darnton, the historian who heads Harvard's vast system of libraries, has been eloquent in pointing out the intellectual hazards of this development.
It would be foolish to expect Congress to unplug the Google-Verizon view of the future. Massachusetts congressman Edward Markey has been foiled in his attempts to do so. But the FCC does have the power to short-circuit it. The FCC must reach back to precedent established since 1910 and declare Internet providers "common carriers" subject to federal regulation. This is not some cute form of legerdemain. It is legal hardball that would no doubt provoke a hotly contested lawsuit.
If the FCC will not stand up to Google, who will? It is time that someone establishes that what's good for Google is not necessarily what is good for the United States — or the world.
For more information, and to learn what you can do, visit the Save the Internet Coalition at savetheinternet.com.
: The Editorial Page
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