So is it a bad move to sign the sort of petition I linked?
I support what the principles they espouse (which is no surprise, net neutrality favors internet publishers the most and that is one of the businesses I'm in) but I am against the efforts to codify a generally good thing to something that is law. Google is trying to get the government to enforce net neutrality to protect themselves as online publishers against the ISPs using their control over the pipes to play gatekeeper. The kind of thing they are terrified of is something like an ISP saying they will let sites pay to have faster bandwidth to the user.
It is true that the internet thrives on principles of openness and net neutrality is
a generally good thing, but I don't think it is something the government should enforce. If an ISP wants to treat some traffic differently they should be able to (and customers should have choices so that they can leave). If they want no P2P traffic that is their prerogative. What the government should be doing is providing wifi (that they can run net neutrally if they want) as a utility in metropolitan areas, not trying to regulate how ISPs route internet traffic. It's also worth noting that Google toyed with giving away free wifi for much the same reasons but it's obviously cheaper to try to get the government to tell others how to run their networks than to run it yourself.
The bottom line is about Google's bottom line, they have a stranglehold on the internet and don't want the people who control the proverbial "last mile" (referring to the fact that the last mile of cable to your house is often a monopoly) to be able to change that. This is something they view as a significant potential threat to their revenue and while I agree that an open, level-playing field is best for the internet their ever-growing lobby budget is doing a good job about making this seem like an internet principle they are trying to defend when what they are really worried about is their revenue. No ISP of any significance is considering things that would really hurt end users or stifle innovation on the internet significantly (come on, the internet survived the AOL walled garden). Here is a scenario that is their worse nightmare:
Let's say you have a cable internet connection at 1.5 mbps. Your company also offers 3mbps and more if you want to pay more for it but you don't. Let's say this company decides to see if the publisher (the website) wants to pay to have a faster connection to you so that their service works better. So let's say that Hulu pays your ISP for "preferred" status.
Now what Google is pissed off about is that this is a competitive advantage that Hulu has over Youtube, and that they'd have to start paying the ISPs for if they want it too. They do not want this to be a possibility and want the government to prohibit it.
As an internet publisher myself I agree with them, the internet is better as a level playing field for all sites but I think the internet is also better for less government regulation as well. Another principle of the internet is decentralization and anarchy. Yes the internet should be open, even to people who want to run their networks with less-than-ideal openness.
So that's a long way of saying I wouldn't support that petition (though I don't put much value in signing petitions in general and would sign one proposing to "kill all babies" if I felt so inclined) but I do
like the increasing awareness of network neutrality and the principles behind the lobby.