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.
Google, Verizon Anger the Web with Broadband Plan
Imposing the open Internet principles Google desires for wireline broadband could curb Android’s rise versus Apple and its immensely popular iPhone.
Despite Schmidt’s claims that Google “likes the open Internet” that enabled former startups such as Google and Facebook to grow into the giants they’ve become, the plan isn’t sitting well with Internet companies, policy advocates and the FCC itself.
FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps said the problem with the plan is it puts Google’s and Verizon’s interests before consumers.
“It is time to move a decision forward-a decision to reassert FCC authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open Internet now and forever, and to put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations.”
Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, is appalled that, because the principles largely exempt wireless networks, wireless carriers could block any application, content or service so long as they told consumers they were doing so.
Sohn also lamented the fact that a network provider such as Verizon could devote 90 percent of its broadband capacity to these certain managed services and 10 percent to the best efforts Internet. Sohn called for the FCC to step up and take charge to forge fair broadband policy.
However, Seidenberg said about discrimination:
“We don’t do it now, and I don’t see why we would start doing it. … Google continues to innovate around exploding apps on the Internet, which means we have to feed that cookie monster pretty strongly, and all we’re saying is that if we’re asked to do that we want to offer FiOS.”
Schmidt observed that Verizon and others have large financial incentives to make the open Internet more useful-and not degrade certain public Internet services in favor of paid services-because it’s what their customers want.
Still, even some of the companies that have participated in the FCC broadband proceedings are upset. Paul Misener, vice president of global public policy for e-commerce giant Amazon, told eWEEK in a statement:
“We’ve long supported net neutrality and although we agree that network operators should be allowed to offer additional services, we are concerned that this proposal appears to condone services that could harm consumer Internet access.”