It turns out the rumours were right, sort of – Google and Verizon have been in private talks, though while it’s not the betrayal of net neutrality that some feared, there are elements that are controversial.
Google and Verizon have set out a proposal on net neutrality in a joint blog post on Google’s Public Policy Blog, where they stated that, “It is imperative that we find ways to protect the future openness of the Internet and encourage the rapid deployment of broadband.”
The companies hope that its policy and legislative framework is now adopted by the FCC. The problematic areas are the suggestions of “differentiated online services” that would be separate from traditional online broadband, and that wireless access should be controlled by the carriers, rather than being policed by regulators.
In the blog post it broke down the new proposals into seven key areas, which are summarised below.
• Consumers should have access to all legal content on the internet, access to which should be through software and devices of their choice.
• There should be actual, enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices that would conflict with the principle of ‘net neutrality’ – particularly the issue of paid prioritisation of content.
• Broadband providers would be required to give consumers clear, understandable information about the services they offer and their network management policies. For example, this would mean there would be much more clarity when and how a company was throttling traffic.
• The fourth proposal spells out what the FCCs role should be and suggest enforceable methods they should use. Essentially, Google and Verizon are telling the FCC how to its job, due to their lack of confidence in the body following a recent court case where the FCC ruled in favour of Comcast, who had been blocking peer-to-peer traffic on its network.
• The fifth, suggests ‘new services’ that could be built on top of the open Internet, such as “health care monitoring, the smart grid, advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options”. This is possibly the most contentious proposal, as some say it could lead to a two-tiered service where some did not have access to these services based on location and/or affordability.
• The sixth proposal suggests that wireless broadband would be exempt from all of these rules except for legality and transparency, “because the mobile marketplace is more competitive and changing rapidly”.
• The seventh simply advocates broadband for all in the US, which just makes common sense.
Google and Verizon came to the table to create their own proposals after the breakdown of talks chaired by the FCC between a numbers of major carriers on net neutrality issues. Disagreements over wireless traffic were one of the main reason that talks failed.
The lack of protection for wireless broadband users in the Google/Verizon proposals did not sit well with public interest groups. "That alone makes this arrangement a nonstarter," said Andy Schwartzman, head of the Media Access Project, reported Reuters.
Link: Public Policy Page