Its Time for Industry, Public Interest Counterproposals
Another set of issues has more to do with perception than it does with the actual proposal from Google and Verizon. Part of the perception problem comes because of a highly erroneous story in the New York Times just before the announcement took place. The content of the Times' story was picked up by a number of major outlets, none of which actually checked its accuracy. Now that the actual proposal is out, and it's clear that the earlier stories were largely wrong, you'd think that would end the problem, but perceptions don't work that way. Instead, people read the Times story, and then the stories about the Google-Verizon proposal, and they're confused. The proposal itself isn't exactly the clearest net neutrality document ever released, and neither Google nor Verizon has really made a public outreach effort to make sure people understand what they're actually proposing.Unfortunately, such an explanation isn't likely from Congress, since that body is in recess. While there will be a few breaks to have hearings or maybe even vote on legislation over the next four months, the reality is you won't hear anything from Congress on net neutrality until after the new Congress is seated in January. The FCC isn't in recess, but comments from the commission on such proposals rarely show up. Instead, the FCC quietly takes input and then issues a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Only when the NPRM shows up does the FCC make public comments. So the angst and consternation by the public interest groups is not only understandable, it's inevitable. There's only one proposal out there; nobody really knows what the status of the proposal might be and they're not sure they like it. In many cases, they're sure they don't like it. According to Snyder, a number of public interest groups are saying that the agreement (or "deal" as some call it) is much worse than they feared it would be. Sadly, this condition will persist. There hasn't been much movement by other major players in the net neutrality sphere to come up with their own proposals, and to date only AT&T has commented on the Google-Verizon proposal (AT&T likes it). So the obvious question is, Where are the alternate proposals? Perhaps now is a great time for the various public interest groups with an interest in net neutrality to have their own press conferences and announce their own proposals. The FCC might as well have some choices before it issues that NPRM, and Congress might as well have a list of people and groups go give testimony at committee hearings, if they ever happen.
Adding to all of this confusion is the lack of any response from the FCC or Congress. While the agreement on the proposal is only that-a proposal from two companies as to how they'd like to see the Internet regulated-it's being treated as if it's the final word. The next step from Washington needs to be to clarify what the FCC or Congress thinks about the proposal, and to explain what the next steps might be.