How Much Should We Be Freaked Out About the Whole Google-Verizon Net-Neutrality Thing?

Dumenco's Trendrr Chart of the Week

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Some notes about, and context for, the latest weekly Trendrr chart, a collaboration between Advertising Age and social-media tracking service Trendrr Pro:

  • So-called net neutrality -- the notion that all information on the internet should be given the same traffic priority -- has been a buzzy topic lately because of rumors that Google and Verizon have been building some sort of anti-net-neutrality partnership. As The New York Times claimed Aug. 4, the companies were "nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to internet users more quickly if the content's creators are willing to pay for the privilege." But wait! As my colleague Edmund Lee reported Monday, both companies denied that interpretation of their partnership, with Google CEO Eric Schmidt saying that press reports about some sinister Google-Verizon deal were "almost completely wrong."
  • So what's the reality, then? It's still unclear, although as Ed Lee reported, "the two companies have at least agreed to keep what they call the 'public internet' free from any such separation and pricing of content." That semantic distinction, though, leaves considerable wiggle room, in that it would allow Google and Verizon to develop some sort of alternate internet-delivery system -- potentially a nicer, faster information superhighway -- for those willing to pay for it.
  • I think we're looking at the beginning of the end of net neutrality, practically speaking. Because, sure, Google and Verizon might be championing net neutrality on the "public internet," but if you're a media company on the plain old, traffic-clogged internet, and you suddenly have to deal with a competitor that can afford to be on the nicer, faster internet, well, your product is going to look old and slow by comparison. Particularly if you're in a data-intensive realm, like online-video delivery in the mobile market.
  • Media companies and tech bloggers care about this issue -- and thus have been writing about it ad nauseam -- but what about consumers in general? Meh. They care ... fleetingly. Case in point: On Aug. 5, "net neutrality" was mentioned in 17,643 tweets as the conspiratorial New York Times report ricocheted around the web, but the interest since then has plummeted -- and for the most part, daily Twitter mentions of "net neutrality" have been in the hundreds, not thousands, all year, despite frequent news coverage of the issue. And if you look at the larger body of conversations on Twitter that mention Google and/or Verizon (see the second chart, above), the vast majority haven't been mentioning net neutrality, even in the aftermath of The New York Times report. Basically, net neutrality is one of those issues we as consumers should care about, and we kind of do, but, ultimately, we're not exactly going to riot in the streets if companies like Google and Verizon find a politically acceptable way to offered tiered levels of internet-data delivery, whether on the old-school internet or on some super-duper new internet. They'll do what they want to do, and we'll put up with it -- just like we continue to put up with Facebook even though many of us are mad as hell about Mark Zuckerberg's cavalier attitude about our privacy.
  • Speaking of Facebook, this just in from Information Week: "Facebook Criticizes Google Verizon Net Neutrality Pact." Fancy that!

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Dumenco's Trendrr Chart of the Week is produced in collaboration with Wiredset, the New York digital agency behind Trendrr, a social- and digital-media tracking service, and Curatorr, a social media filtering and publishing platform. More background here. Trendrr offers a free trial account; Trendrr Pro, which offers more robust tracking and reporting tools, comes in various paid flavors (get the details here).

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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