Google is urging small business owners to sign on to a letter to their congressman calling for open Internet conditions on the broadband money in the economic stimulus package.
The company warns that "without safeguards that preserve an open Internet, the Internet could be shaped in ways that only serve the interests of broadband carriers, rather than U.S. consumers and Web entrepreneurs."
At the direction and oversight of Congress, the NTIA, FCC and Ag Department are currently deciding what kind of conditions to put on more than $7.2 billion in broadband build-out grants in the economic stimulus package at the direction and oversight of Congress. That includes baseline guarantees of openness and interconnection, but just what those will be, and who the money will go to, are still being hammered out.
Google has created what it calls the Small Business Network to encourage small business owners to promote "business-friendly" policies in Washington and on the state level, starting with broadband stimulus and open Internet.
According to the Small Business Network home page, Google advises those small business owners to ask Congress to make sure the stimulus grants go to "recipients who will build new broadband networks in a timely manner and provide robust access to the open Internet."
Google has been pushing for funding high-speed Internet and competition it says will bring down prices. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has been arguing that $7 billion is not a lot of money, and should first go to areas where there is no broadband service before the government starts subsidizing new competitors or meeting a speed threshold.
Dorothy Chou, who is helping manage the Small Business Program for Google, said the company was not giving out a figure on how many business had signed up or signed on to the letter. "Since we just launched it, we're not going to give out numbers right now," she said, but added: "We have a significant number of small businesses joining the program already."
She said there will be a way to track the letter-signers via the Web site, and that she would provide that information when it became available.