Everyone knows Verizon didn't really mean it supports net neutrality, right?
Nixing Google Wallet shows Verizon sticks to its bedrock principle of self-service in all things
Verizon has also announced it will debut an online movie-streaming service aimed at homes and businesses that don't get its FIOS fiber-channel network, on which it sells video-on-demand at prices far higher than competitor Netflix.
The announcement gives no indication whether Verizon's tolerance of Netflix traffic across its network will change after it rolls out its own competing service. Given its history of dumping or deactivating competitive technology, not to mention dropping services such as Google Wallet that compete with new products, there's a significant chance Netflix customers will find their connections throttled to reduce bandwidth use or "tweaked" to keep performance of Verizon's own services higher than that of competitors – tweaks that are legal under the net neutrality rules as part of loopholes that allow carriers to do as they like to manage performance and traffic on their networks. -- KF
I know you'll be taking a lot of flak for your decision to exclude Google Wallet from the fancy new Samsung phone you just rolled out within your stable in favor of a service you could sell yourself.
I want to reassure you there's no reason to feel guilty about it. Not any more than usual, anyway.
First, people will get all excited about the meaning of this agreement you made with Google to support "net neutrality," though most of what Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg didn't actually support anything that could be described as "net neutrality" without at least one additional prefix. ("Anti-" or the verb-form of any expletive most accurately expresses your attitude toward net neutrality, though I'd suggest "anti-" will get you caught in fewer spam filters.)
During promotional events following your agreement with Google you both went on record as opposing the ability of one vendor to refuse to carry content from another, or to give a higher priority to one of your own services in order to make it more attractive than a competitor's.
You did argue, at the time, that wireless Internet access shouldn't be regulated at all, allowing you to do anything you wanted to restrict customer use and access via handhelds.
You did argue then, and while suing the FCC, that wireless bandwidth is so scarce that carriers have to impose content-priorities, bandwidth-throttling and other draconian net-performance-optimization.
That argument made so little sense even at the time – considering your recent victory in the wireless-broadband-protocol wars and rush to build out 4G LTE services after forcing other carriers to accept LTE rather than WiMax as a 4G technology – that I at least figured it had to be a smoke screen.
Net Neutrality Doublespeak
Second: You've aired quite a few contradictory statements about the way you view net neutrality in the months since your deal with Google.
Reading them consolidated it seems the consistent thread is that Verizon believes the Net should be neutral except the parts for which Verizon is responsible, which Verizon should face no limits that would force it to treat consumers or competitors fairly or restrict anything Verizon would like to do to improve mobile wireless service revenue.
Advocating net neutrality, then essentially dictating to the FCC the lax rules that would fail to limit your freedom to do as you liked seemed a little weaselly.
Turning around and suing the FCC (twice) to try to take away its power to enact regulations that are overly lax because they came almost directly from the text of your own suggestions seems a little gratuitous.
That kind of clear and obvious hypocrisy doesn't come off as good customer service or an effort to preserve the service or experience of the customer.
It comes off as selfish, disdainful, smug arrogance.
That's OK, though. It's what Verizon is known for. It's why you and Bank of America consistently top lists of organizations consumers rate as Companies We Hate But Are Forced to Deal With Anyway.
(Bank of America has so many enemies it was actually hard to narrow down the list of suspects while investigating a hack attack in October. Verizon is not that widely hated yet, but keep working on it. You're getting there.)
No, saying one thing and doing the opposite isn't 'hypocrisy!' It's business!
Third: I doubt I really have to say it, but news stories out this morning saying Verizon had refused to carry Google Wallet on the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus because you planned to offer your own competing digital wallet service is exactly the kind of net neutrality issue on which you should hold yourself to task.
It's software loaded on a handset, not strictly a web service, and customers can load Google Wallet themselves if they'd like.
Still, crowing that you support fair treatment of content and competitors online as a way to support the customer, then doing everything you can to skunk every potential competing service, including flat-out blocking it from devices you support? That takes chutzpah.
That takes the confidence to own your own hypocrisy and need for self-gratification and absolute disregard for the principles you publicly advocate.
There's no way to avoid having people recognize the contradiction or how dismissive of the needs of the customer the reasoning behind that decision must be.
It's clearly an extension of the not-built-here attitude that made Verizon famous for crippling the best features in smartphones it offered in order to sell your own version of those features at a premium.
Those complaints faded during the past couple of years as Android and iOS forced the mobile wireless market open a little. It's good to see you haven't abandoned your actual bedrock principles in favor of the ones you simply advocate in public.
Live the attitude; wear the arrogance like a snakeskin suit
My advice is to own the hypocrisy. If you can't hide it, make it a virtue. Greed is good. Self-centeredness is a kind of centeredness, after all, even if Karma and the harmony of the universe aren't involved.
That kind of existential negative shouldn't matter as long as you don't try to sell a crippled phone to the Dalai Lama.
Forget all the mealy-mouthed promises you made to benefit customers, who remain ungrateful no matter how many additional fees and hidden penalties you load on them.
Even if you are exactly the model of the kind of arrogant, power-abusing mega corporation nearly every consumer and business would hate to be beholden to for a vital service, you should embrace that reality.
Don't worry that you're setting a precedent as exactly the kind of consumer-abusing, promise-breaking, net-denutralizing company the FCC should paint on a target and hang on its wall, the kind of company whose abuses are so legendary, uncontrollable and resistant to every kind of external pressure that you force the do-nothing federal government to finally do something – like take you to court for a decade-and-a-half as the DoJ did with Microsoft.
Don't worry about those things and don't worry about what other people say net neutrality should be.
You stick to what you think net neutrality should be and which of your favorite exclusionist principles and practices should be exempted from any net neutrality regulations just because you are Verizon and Verizon deserves to warp competition in the market, exploit customers, violate regulations on privacy, competition and net neutrality simply because it is what it is: the biggest gorilla in the room, and the gutsiest.
Who else would spend so much time promising one thing and work so hard to deliver another, without ever acknowledging there's a difference between the two?
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.