Google may be a name that evokes thoughts of flashy, new Internet technologies, or of a friendly relationship with the greater Internet community, but us critics have seen what they were up to all along. Just like any other industry titan, it takes what it can get, with government help when it must. What's news, though, is that even the LA Times is taking notice:
"Google is not just a benign corporate entity. It has a variety of special interests," said Jeff Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, who has sparred with Google over data-privacy issues. "They're in a great position to push their agenda through with the support of the [P]resident and the Democrats in Congress."
....Competitors worry about Google's close relationship with the Obama administration, said Bill Whalen, a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
"The question going forward is: Will Google turn into just another business entity looking for favors in Washington, or will it manage to keep the 767 flying at 30,000 feet above the political din?" he said, a reference to the Google founders' private plane.
Going forward? Going forward? They've been this way all along.
Google's oft-quoted goal is "Don't be evil," but a more accurate description is "Be Democratic, except when money gets in the way." They fool some of the people all of the time, and it's a blast to watch. Google pretends to be this great, free software-friendly company, but at every opportunity they pull the same embrace and extend tactics that Microsoft has perfected, on more than one occasion. It's all about lock in with them. Just like Microsoft does with Windows and Word, Google wants you tied to their services forever.
But the idea that they've been politically isolated before the election of Obama is silly. They've actually been pushing for their perverted vision of "net neutrality" from the beginning. Why do I say perverted? The original "net neutrality" push was one against a fragmentation of the Internet, where users of one ISP had a hard time reaching the services of other ISPs' users.
Google, though, has worked to redefine the entire debate. Using their corporate dollars, Google has turned the debate into one of whether people should have to pay for what services they use, and block people from even having the option of paying for faster, more reliable Internet access. Google wants to use government to try to get casual Internet users to continue to subsidize aggressive users of Bittorrent, Google's own YouTube, and other high-bandwidth services.
I say "continue to subsidize," because high bandwidth users have been subsidized by casual users since the dawn of Internet in the home. Dial-up Internet only worked as a business because every user did not want to be connected all the time. The businesses were profitable because they could oversell their capacity, counting on some people to dial up only occasionally. However those who dialed up constantly paid the same rate for more service. They (we, properly, as I certainly make the most of my Internet connections, and always have) use up the allotment of others, in essence.
The same holds true today with the new DSL, Cable, and even Wireless Internet services. As demonstrated during the Obama inauguration, these services only work if most people choose not to use what they've paid for! That's a great deal for the high-bandwidth users, but it's not so great for the rest of the users, when those high-bandwidth users cause everyone else's rates to go up because of all those episodes of South Park passing through the series of tubes.
So naturally, a lot of people who are active on the Internet have thrown themselves fervently behind Google's "net neutrality" push. Fearing they'll have to pay for what they use, they want Big Government to step in and keep the gravy train rolling along. Of course, this helps Google, because that gravy train has stops in GMail, Youtube, Google Documents, Picasa, Google Maps, Blogger, Google Talk with Video, and other Google services to come.
The "Net Neutrality" subsidy isn't the only issue Google has taken up arms for even. We don't usually think of corporations actually giving valuable donations in politics because of federal law, but California has no law prohibiting a corporation from giving to efforts for or against a ballot measure. Google has taken full advantage of that, using corporate resources to oppose Proposition 8, giving $140,000 in cash, on top of the six figures of cash donations that the Google founders individually gave to the failed (ha, ha) effort.
So, to sum up: Way to wake up to what's already been going on, Times. Now you know why we already have no special, gushy love for Google. And now we know what we have to gear up to fight on the Internet front.