Rebecca McKinnon, a China expert, seems hopeful that the great Google Web site switch that points people from Google.cn to a new Hong Kong-based version of the site will give Beijing enough cover to ignore that site's refusal to censor. It's technically a Hong Kong site, they might say, and look the other way. Google seems to be putting a lot of chips on that possibility. On the other hand, reports are coming in today that Google.cn's redirect to Google.com/hk is already being blocked in mainland China.
This afternoon, Google made its expected announcement on the future of operations in China. The background, of course, is that Google had said recently that it would no longer censor search results in China, which China said put the company in violation of Chinese laws. Which brings us to today. In its announcement, Google said that traffic from within mainland China to Google.cn, the local Google homepage, will redirect from now on to Google.com/hk, the Hong Kong iteration of Google search. Google said it will continue its R&D operations in China (which leaves open the possibility of development in mobile, OS, etc.).
Maybe it's wishful thinking, but there are signs that we're starting to see a questioning of the consensus that the national broadband plan released by the Federal Communications Commission last week was all that it could have been. I've argued that the plan does little to encourage competition. And without competition in broadband, it's pretty unclear how you (a) drive up adoption rates in places where people aren't connected and (b) drive down prices that are keeping people from buying broadband. Harvard Law professor Yochai Benkler argued that the plan is flawed in an op-ed this Sunday in TheNew York Times:
The long-awaited National Broadband Plan was, as you might be aware, finally released Tuesday by a small planning unit within the Federal Communications Commission. What's been somewhat surprising is how the reaction to the plan among broadband-access advocates seems to be that it's a good document, as far as it goes. Fair enough. But a close read of this text suggests that what was given unto us doesn't go all that far.
Tribal lands in the United States have terrestrial broadband penetration rates of about 10 percent, according to the best available data, as cited in the new National Broadband Plan released yesterday. As a point of comparison, the broadband adoption rate among rural Americans more broadly is 50 percent. It's important to keep in mind the possibility that some people living on American Indian reservations in the U.S. don't see a need for broadband. But it's probably a good bet that more than one in 10 of them do.