Google and Verizon today released an updated joint policy proposal for how the FCC should handle net neutrality. Both companies were careful to reiterate their love of the open Internet. During a joint press conference, Google CEO Eric Schmidt noted, “Google cares a lot about the open Internet. An open Internet allows for the next Google to be created.”
Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg made clear that there would be “no prioritization of traffic that comes from Google.” Although he does want to leave open the ability for Verizon to charge for prioritization on both existing and yet-to-be determined services which go above and beyond the existing Internet, such as Verizon’s FIOS service which combines broadband Internet with phone and TV or healthcare monitoring, smart grid, or education services. Towards the end of the conference call, when I asked Seidenberg why shouldn’t everything eventually be treated as an Internet service, he responded: “We have to be flexible. Verizon is standing tall and saying there will be no paid prioritization on the Internet. Google says it will continue to innovate around applications. We have to feed this cookie monster, but we have to be able to offer things like FIOS also.”
Schmidt, however, says Google has no interest in doing anything that is not on the open Internet: “We love the Internet and we have no intention of doing anything other than the Internet.”
The joint policy proposal supports the FCC’s current openness principles, and goes beyond that to suggest a prohibition against the ability of Internet access providers to discriminate against any lawful Internet traffic, applications or content:
Importantly, this new nondiscrimination principle includes a presumption against prioritization of Internet traffic – including paid prioritization. So, in addition to not blocking or degrading of Internet content and applications, wireline broadband providers also could not favor particular Internet traffic over other traffic.
The proposal also calls for transparency to consumers about net neutrality policies on the part of ISPs and the government. In light of the recent court ruling hobbling the FCC’s broadband enforcement authority, it also proposes a “new enforcement mechanism” for the FCC to impose fines of up to $2 million on a case-by-case basis for any companies who violate these open Internet principles. None of these principles would apply to the wireless Internet, which is another pretty big loophole.
Some background. Last week, in the midst of FCC meetings about the future of net neutrality, a report came out that Verizon and Google were negotiating with one another directly about these same issues. Both companies publicly denied one part of the report, that Google would agree to pay Verizon for extra it to carry Google data to consumers.
Both companies have been in talks since last year in an attempt to come to an agreement on some basic net neutrality principles. In a public policy post last year, Google stated that on the one hand, both agree that:
The minute that anyone, whether from government or the private sector, starts to control how people use the Internet, it is the beginning of the end of the Net as we know it.
Yet on the other hand:
broadband network providers should have the flexibility to manage their networks to deal with issues like traffic congestion, spam, “malware” and denial of service attacks, as well as other threats that may emerge in the future
Both Schmidt and Seidenberg also were clear that there is no business arrangement or discussion between the two companies around these issues. The discussions are limited to formulating joint policy proposals to be presented to the FCC.
Photo credit: Flickr/Nelson Pavlosky