Google, Verizon Net Neutrality Plans Are Announced

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-08-09

Google, Verizon Net Neutrality Plans Are Announced

Google and Verizon announced Aug. 9 their much-anticipated plan for implementing their view of net neutrality. The CEOs of both companies, Eric Schmidt of Google and Ivan Seidenberg of Verizon, announced a plan that sticks closely to a statement of principles issued jointly in October 2009. The primary principle as stated by both companies is that users should have the final say on their Web experience.

Casting the joint statement as a "way to move forward" and calling for an end to what Schmidt called a "divisive debate," Google's CEO reiterated the message that preserving the open Internet is very important to Google. He also requested that reporters ignore last week's story in The New York Times, which he referred to as "completely wrong," and read the joint public policy proposal.

In addition to making their policy statement clear, the companies specifically and repeatedly said there was no business deal involved. The CEOs also repeated that there was no place for paid prioritization of content, and that while individual carriers could provide content to their own customers, such content should not take away bandwidth or otherwise degrade traffic on the open Internet.

Both companies called on the Federal Communications Commission to create enforceable rules ensuring an open Internet with significant penalties for what they referred to as "bad actors."

"We believe very strongly that the openness principles should be fully enforceable," Schmidt said.

Their plan would also provide enforceable prohibition of any move by an Internet provider against openness, Schmidt said. He said there would be no blocking or degrading, and paid prioritization would be against the law.

Verizon and Google also reaffirmed their belief that the Internet should remain open for any legal use and that private investment in the Internet needs to be encouraged through regulatory flexibility. For this reason, both companies have opposed overly detailed regulations that would reduce the ability of the Internet to evolve and could result in other unintended consequences. Finally, both companies repeated their belief that broadband network providers need to have the ability to manage their networks to deal with everything from spam and malware to traffic congestion and denial-of-service attacks.

The Aug. 9 announcement also repeated a call for transparency in proceedings of the FCC and other parties involved-something that has been notably lacking in the FCC's closed-door negotiations with a variety of Internet players.

The joint statement and the statements by Schmidt and Seidenberg also reiterated their belief that wireless communications should be included in the proposed net neutrality rules, although Seidenberg said he felt that the wireless arena was slightly different from the wire-line world, with different technology, a different state of competition and different interactive capabilities, and said he was concerned that too many rules would stifle competition.

Google, Verizon Net Neutrality Plans Are Announced

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Both companies shared a vision of what they referred to as "the formulation of an enlightened, sustainable Internet policy for the United States," in a January 2010 filing with the FCC. In that filing, the companies stressed the necessity of preserving openness, encouraging investment, providing users with control and information, and keeping applications, content and services free from regulation. The filing also suggested an important role for TAGs (technical advisory groups) for developing best practices, dispute resolution and coordination with standards-setting bodies.

In the Aug. 9 joint policy proposal, which was published simultaneously with the press conference, Google and Verizon pointed out that both companies have long been proponents of the FCC's current wire-line broadband openness policies, and stated that they believe it's critical to ensure that consumers have access to all legal content.

In addition, the joint statement called for new, enforceable prohibitions against discriminatory practices that would harm consumers or provide harm to competition. The statement said broadband providers should not be able to favor particular Internet traffic over other traffic.

The two companies also called for consumers to be fully informed about their Internet experiences, and said providers should give consumers clear, understandable information about the services they offer and their capabilities.

The proposal also asks for new enforcement provisions for the FCC following the Comcast decision. Enforcement would be handled on a case-by-case basis, and would include fines of up to $2 million dollars. The proposal does not specify what sort of legal or legislative framework would give this power to the FCC.

Other items in the proposal call for support for innovation, a special process in which the Government Accountability Office would produce updates on wireless technology to Congress annually, and support for the reform of the federal Universal Service Fund to better support broadband deployment to rural areas.

The goal of the policy proposal, according to Schmidt, is to ensure that the Internet remains open and available for innovation. Rejecting suggestions that Google is planning a suite of premium services for extra pay, he said, "Google is dependent on the open Internet." Schmidt added that Google could never have achieved the place it now occupies without it, and he said he thinks it's critical for the next Google or the next YouTube to have as good a chance of success as his company has had.

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