MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Net neutrality is a difficult concept to sum up in a pithy slogan. But it was a nice day for a protest in Northern California.
Several dozen people gathered Friday here in Charleston Park--a public park steps from the Googleplex--to protest Google's proposed Net neutrality guidelines developed with Verizon Communications. They trotted out the usual "hey hey, ho ho" and "what do we want/when do we want it" chants, hoping to make their voices heard as about two dozen Googlers on their lunch breaks watched in bemusement.
The group was not very large, but they could be heard throughout Google's campus jeering the company for agreeing with Verizon that wireless networks shouldn't be subject to the same Net neutrality restrictions as wired networks, the most common objection to the proposal cited by protesters. "The proposal threatens the openness of the Internet," said Greg Slepak, CEO and founder of a small software company in San Francisco, who was drawn to the protest after receiving an e-mail from MoveOn.org.
A common theme among the chants and slogans aired during the protest was defiance of corporate-ordained legislation in general, which protesters believed Google and Verizon were trying to do with their proposal.
Bay Area protest regulars Raging Grannies showed up with three parody protest songs, including this one set to the tune of "Clementine:"
Can the chickens in the henhouse all be guarded by the fox?
Every farmer knows it won't do and the henhouse needs a lock
So when Google says "just trust us" we all know it's just a stall
The FCC must do its duty and protect access for all
Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling FCC
Keep computers safe from foxes,
Equal access is the key.
Google humored the group, allowing spokesman James Rucker of Save the Internet and Colorofchange.org to deliver petitions signed by what the group claimed were 300,000 people opposed to Google's proposal to Niklas Lundblad, head of public policy. Lundblad met privately with a few of the protesters inside a building, and later issued a statement.
"This is an important, complex issue that should be discussed," Lundblad said. "But let me be clear: Google remains a fierce supporter of the open Internet. We're not expecting everyone to agree with every aspect of our proposal, but we think that locking in key enforceable protections for consumers is preferable to no protection."
As protests go, it was certainly a polite one. Several blue-shirted Google security guards tried to prevent the group from actually stepping foot on Google's property, but they were very courteous about it. Likewise, the few employees gathered to watch didn't engage with the protesters, although plenty of raised eyebrows were spotted.