Last updated: August 16, 2010 - 8:42am
Google's compromise with Verizon is the latest collision between idealism and pragmatism at the company, which has long promoted the idea that its mission, organizing the world's information, is for the public good, as underscored by its unofficial motto: "Don't be evil."
Some say that as Google has grown up and become a large multinational company, it has been forced to start weighing its business interests against the more idealistic leanings of its founders and many of its employees. "I don't know that Google pondered the moral decision this time," said Jordan Rohan, an Internet and digital media analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. "I think the business decision to cooperate with Verizon superseded the other complications and side effects that it may cause." But the proposal left Google's former allies, as well as many other technology and media companies, feeling disappointed and even betrayed. The risk, they say, is that without adequate regulation, Internet access companies could exercise too much control over what their customers can do online, or how quickly they can gain access to certain content. They could charge companies for faster access to consumers, hurting smaller players and innovation.
The proposal from Google and Verizon was all the more surprising to some advocates because it was released just as broader talks brokered by the Federal Communications Commission were close to producing a draft compromise agreement, according to three people briefed on the talks, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because the talks were supposed to be confidential. Unlike the Google-Verizon proposal, the agreement would have imposed some rules on wireless Internet, these people said. "We were very close," said one person briefed on the talks. Both the FCC and Google declined to comment on those discussions. After reports of a Google-Verizon deal emerged, the FCC called off the talks.
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