Google often shows a sweeping disdain for the law when it gets in the way of its plans, so seeing the search giant roll out a similar strategy to other business sectors is hardly a surprise. This time it involves the company’s play in the Internet Service Provider (ISP) space, where its Fiber service has broken new ground with web speeds but remains limited to test markets like Kansas City and Austin, Texas.
Addressing an audience in Washington D.C. this week, Fiber’s VP of Access Services Milo Medin told attendees that cities would essentially be given a ‘my way or the highway’ offer when Google comes to town. Brushing aside any potential criticism that Google should earn its place in the ISP market, Medin managed to put the emphasis on city administrators to effectively earn the right to welcome Fiber to town, while also disparaging existing providers that serve their area.
It’s an exceedingly arrogant approach, but by no means is it without precedent.
Consider how long it took to get the company to accept that piracy sites appearing in its search results were something that Google had to assume responsibility for. For years the company paid lip service to creative rights and preventing copyright infringement, while merely doing the minimum to meet the legal requirements of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Where it could have adopted an attitude to help creators protect their work and make more money through digital distribution channels like its own Play store, Google chose to pass the buck and declare its search results a neutral party.
A company that’s able to harness the world’s information and deliver it in a manageable way somehow took the better part of a decade to tackle the most notorious piracy sites, and even then left plenty of gaping holes for pirates to leap through.
And yet, when prevailing industry standards and legitimate regulatory concerns threaten to delay its new business venture for even a few months, Google draws an immediate line in the sand and says you’re with us or against us. It’s a shame that such an exciting service for consumers has to be accompanied by such a sour taste for competition.
All too often in the tech sector, nebulous calls for boundless innovation and “information should be free” drown out the legitimate concerns of existing businesses and creators, who have just as much right to rely on the law as do companies like Google. As Vox Indie highlighted yesterday, Google is quick enough to avail itself of existing laws when it suits their business, but brushes off the idea that it should conform to them when it would curb an activity that makes them money.
Innovation is vital to the U.S. economy and the technology sector plays a pivotal role in that, but it cannot be allowed to ride roughshod over laws that protect other business sectors, nor make its money at the expense of others with a legitimate legal claim.