Google, Verizon Jointly Address Net Neutrality

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  September 01, 2010

After several weeks of reports about closed door net neutrality meetings at the FCC, and articles talking about who has or has not been negotiating special deals on this front, Google (News - Alert) and Verizon last month jointly unveiled a seven-point policy framework on what they believe should be the guiding principles around this controversial topic. “It is imperative that we find ways to protect the future openness of the Internet and encourage the rapid deployment of broadband,” according to a blog posted Aug. 1 by Alan Davidson (News - Alert), Google director of public policy, and Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president of public affairs, policy, and communications.

To allow that to happen, the two big guns say that regulators and other players must ensure that consumers have access to all legal content on the Internet, and can use what applications, services, and devices they choose.

“This means that for the first time, wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition,” Google and Verizon (News - Alert) say.

And they suggest that rules be created to prohibit discriminatory practices. However, the pair says the FCC should enforce openness only as complaints arise, on a case-by-case basis. Those found in violation of the proposed new rules could face a penalty of up to $2 million, according to the framework proffered by Google and Verizon.

“Importantly, this new non-discrimination principle includes a presumption against prioritization of Internet traffic – including paid prioritization,” the blog continues.

That’s interesting, considering that, while broadband operators and their suppliers never talked about “discriminating” against any traffic, there have been discussions about the idea of paid prioritization in an effort to ensure higher-level customer experiences and application requirements. However, Google and Verizon address that later in the blog by saying “we want the broadband infrastructure to be a platform for innovation. Therefore, our proposal would allow broadband providers to offer additional, differentiated online services, in addition to the Internet access and video services (such as Verizon’s FIOS TV) offered today. This means that broadband providers can work with other players to develop new services.”

Examples of this kind of thing, say Google and Verizon, might include health care monitoring, the smart grid, advanced educational services, or new entertainment and 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,” according to the blog, which says the FCC (News - Alert) would be charged with policing these safeguards under the framework Google and Verizon are suggesting.

Other framework tenets include exempting wireline networks and services from all of the above (because Google and Verizon see wireless as a different beast), except for the suggestion calling for the creation of “transparency rules” for wireline and wireless services requiring providers of said offerings to provide clear information about their services’ capabilities, and the support for USF reform in an effort to bring broadband to areas where it is not now available. NGN