Net Neutrality: Saintly or sinful for travel startups?NewsBy Glenn Gruber | August 11, 2010Share This article was originally published on This week Google and Verizon made a joint announcement on their “suggested guidelines” for Net Neutrality.Net Neutrality has been an important, long debated issue made famous by a US Senator Ted Stevens rant about internet tubes (parodied by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show). Sadly, Stevens died just a day or so after the Google-Verizon announcement.There has been much reaction to the announcement, but let’s start off by framing the issue.Very simply, network neutrality is a concept to ensure that Internet Service Providers do not impose any fee structures or provide varying quality of service levels – or tiered services – where the ISP prioritizes bandwidth, content or applications across the internet.Who would tiered services be good for? Mostly really big companies that can afford to pay whatever freight an ISP would want to charge.Who would it not be good for? Smaller companies, startups, people who are driving much of the innovation in the technology industry in general, and the travel industry in specific.So back to the Google-Verizon announcement.While there is a little vagueness on whether this is part of a deeper co-mingling of the two companies, building on their budding relationship around Droid smartphones, there are aspects that proclaim a support for net neutrality while others point to the kinds of tiered services that would seem to favor large companies over small.Let’s review what I believe are the key sections of the proposal: Non-Discrimination Requirement: This starts out well with the key phrase being “Prioritization of Internet traffic would be presumed inconsistent with the non-discrimination standard, but the presumption could be rebutted.” On the face of it, it preserves net neutrality, but the last part of the phrase leaves an opening.Additional Online Services: This section stipulates that an Internet Service Provider may offer “additional or differentiated services” that would be different than the ‘public Internet’. Would this make a second style of Internet available for those who can afford it?Wireless Broadband: This is the most surprising and perhaps most important section. Wireless networks are not covered at all by the proposal. At all. So effectively wireless networks like Verizon's can do whatever they like in regard to provisioning bandwidth and creating service levels for what is the fastest growing, and increasingly most common access point of the public Internet. Wow.Forrester’s Josh Bernoff called the fractionalization of the internet caused by mobile devices the “Splinternet.”What would the creation of a different tier of Internet services be called? Kara Swisher coined the term “Schminternet” in homage to Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Catchy, eh?Now just imagine what the reaction would be if Apple and AT&T put forth such a proposal. Is it possible that some have anointed the wrong company as the source of the Devil’s instrument?So, what do you think? Is Google sticking to its “Don’t do evil” mantra?