Google, Verizon Deny Paid Prioritization for Web Services

Google and Verizon CEOs deny that paid prioritization of public Internet services was part of their open broadband principles. The FCC, consumer advocates and Amazon don't like the plan.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg vehemently denied brokering a deal for paid prioritization of public Internet services as part of a media call to outline their companies' plan for open broadband deployment.

However, the two leaders acknowledged the possibility of managed services trafficking at higher speed on separate pipes, a tiered offering that is alarming consumer advocates who feel public Internet services will be degraded.

The paid prioritization issue was the main concern for reporters on the call less than a week after the New York Times reported that the Internet company would pay the broadband provider to speed up Web services such as YouTube.

This report incensed public policy advocates and prompted Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski to denounce such a plan, as his agency suspended broadband policy talks with the Internet companies and carriers.

Reporters broached the subject of paid prioritization with Schmidt and Seidenberg several different ways on the Aug. 9 call, which was hastily thrown together to address what Schmidt called "erroneous" reports about a business deal between Google and Verizon.

"This debate has been hijacked by discussion and issues that are not reflective of what the company is doing," Seidenberg said, chiding reporters. "There is no prioritization of traffic that would come from Google under any circumstance over the Internet. Period."

What is being offered, according to the companies' joint policy plan, is a Web where users control the content, applications and devices they use without seeing Web services degraded by broadband service providers that want to discriminate against "lawful" content.

If the plan, which is merely a frame of reference for the FCC that sets broadband policy, comes to pass, Verizon, AT&T and broadband providers must be clear about their services. This is a transparency provision.

Managed services, such as 3D movie streaming or gaming, could be offered separate from public Internet services currently offered, though Verizon did not announce specific plans for this..

One important point to note is that, with the exception of the transparency principle, the framework does not apply to wireless networks, which means wireless carriers can charge variable pricing for different types of content and bandwidth.

Google and Verizon believe applying the same rules to wireless networks would stymie competition and innovation.

Many industry watchers point to Google's cozy relationship with Verizon Wireless, which is separate from Verizon, as a reason for the exclusion.

Verizon Wireless sells the popular line of Droid smartphones based on Google's Android operating system. Google wants device development and services for Android to continue unfettered.