Press and public policy pundits alike were quick to jump the gun last Thursday when the NYT ran a story implicating Google in a breach of net-neutrality policy that stated the company would be paying Verizon for prioritized traffic. This would in effect end net-neutrality, as we know it. But Verizon and Google quickly issued comments saying that the NYT was “mistaken” and “wrong.”
In a joint conference call, both companies made it very apparent that they’re not working on a business deal involving public Internet. “The idea here is for this proposal to follow a consumer-driven orientation,” said Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg. Google CEO Eric Schmidt reiterated this point by saying, “We actually like the public internet very much.”
(More on Techland: Comcast Routs the FCC Rip Net Neutrality and Bittorrents)
Two guiding principles (listed below) have led to today’s announcement, according to Google’s Public Policy blog.
1. Users should choose what content, applications, or devices they use, since openness has been central to the explosive innovation that has made the Internet a transformative medium.
2. America must continue to encourage both investment and innovation to support the underlying broadband infrastructure; it is imperative for our global competitiveness.
Both sides agreed that there would be no paid prioritization of traffic from either party over the public Internet but the joint proposal implies that Verizon could offer premium services over its own network but that it would not degrade or reduce bandwidth from what’s currently available. Verizon could potentially offer a separate Internet pipe for premium content that would add value and be totally transparent to consumers.
In January, Google and Verizon submitted a joint filing for an Open Internet outlined by seven core principles: Preserving Openness, Encouraging Investment and Innovation in Broadband Networks, Providing Users with Control, Providing Users with Information, Maintaining Balanced Intellectual Property Policy, Keeping Internet Applications, Content and Services Free from Communications Regulation, and Providing a Leadership Role for Expert Technical Bodies.
Today’s announcement is a suggested legislative framework for lawmakers to consider in order to preserve an open Internet. The following are seven key components to help preserve that notion.
Consumer Protections: An ISP has no right to prohibit a user from 1) “sending and receiving lawful content of their choice” 2) running lawful applications and using lawful services of their choice” and 3) connecting their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network or service, facilitate theft of service, or harm other users of the service.”
Non-Discrimination Requirement: Lawful Internet content can not and should not be prioritized by wireline broadband providers.
Transparency: Broadband providers should have a clear-cut set of transparent rules that inform consumers of their respective products and what they’re capable of.
Case-By-Case Enforcement: “because of the confusion about the FCC’s authority following the Comcast court decision, our proposal spells out the FCC’s role and authority in the broadband space. In addition to creating enforceable consumer protection and nondiscrimination standards that go beyond the FCC’s preexisting consumer safeguards, the proposal also provides for a new enforcement mechanism for the FCC to use. Specifically, the FCC would enforce these openness policies on a case-by-case basis, using a complaint-driven process. The FCC could move swiftly to stop a practice that violates these safeguards, and it could impose a penalty of up to $2 million on bad actors.”
Additional Online Services: In addition to pre-existing services offered by ISPs like Internet and video services, ISPs should be allowed to offer additional services in conjunction with others such as health care monitoring, smart grid or gaming options. “Our proposal also includes safeguards to ensure that such online services must be distinguishable from traditional broadband Internet access services and are not designed to circumvent the rules. The FCC would also monitor the development of these services to make sure they don’t interfere with the continued development of Internet access services.”
(More on Techland: It’s Google Doodle Time: Our Geeky Favorites)
Wireless Broadband: Because the wireless market is ever evolving, Google and Verizon propse that FCC regulations of wireline services should not be applicable to wireless services except for transparency requirements.
Broadband Access for Americans: Google and Verizon suggest the Federal Universal Service Fund should be reformed to provide broadband service to all Americans.
The fifth point is most glaring but until something controversial happens there’s no point in throwing a red flag or crying wolf. We did plenty of that last week.
It appears as though Google’s creedo of “do no evil” holds up. For now.
The proposal is available in its entirety after the jump.