Google, Verizon Generally Agree on Net Neutrality
Agreement could help found legislative framework for network openness
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/9/2010 2:27:44 PM
They said they have come to agreement on seven Internet principles that they say could form the basis of a legislative framework for network openness. Those include agreeing that the FCC should add a nondiscrimination principle to its network openness guidelines, and that Congress should make all the guidelines enforceable.
The companies, which have been working on a joint approach to reasonable network management for months, outlined their agreement Monday in a conference call with reporters featuring Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg as well as in a blog posting.
But only a new transparency principle (the FCC has proposed adding that and the non-discrimination principle to its current four Internet freedoms) would be applied to wireless broadband, though under the proposal the GAO would be asked to check up regularly to make sure that the framework for wireless was serving consumers' interests.
Enforcement would be by a case-by-case complaint process, the kind envisioned by the FCC when it created its openness guidelines, with a fine of up to $2 million.
The two also agreed that Verizon should be able to offer new and different services that do not ride on the public Internet, and for which content providers could pay for improved performance, say for broadband health monitoring or new video delivery services. But those services' improved delivery could not come at the expense of the public Internet, the two companies said, and Schmidt said definitively that Google would not pay to prioritize YouTube over one of those separate delivery systems. "We love the Internet and we have no intention of doing anything other than the Internet," said Schmidt.
"We want to make sure there are incentives and rules to provide the most robust public internet, but also allow for the kind of innovations that will come about in the future. We feel pretty strongly about that and I think this proposal adquately covers both ideas," said Seidenberg. He said those new services would have to be value added and not a public Internet work-around.
Asked to identify an entertainment service that might be delivered on one of these differentiated online services, Seidenberg bristled, saying that he would provide and example and it would be trivialized, but provided one anyway. He said assume that the Metropolitan Opera wants to broadcast all its operas in 3D. "I'm not so sure they are going to want to do it over the public Internet and that may or may not be the right answer. "
The agreement on principles has been criticized as a closed-door deal. Schmidt said it was not a deal but a "joint policy annoucement" that they both planned to follow. Seidenberg said he had talked to other carriers about this, but has not asked anybody to join them. "We would hope that partnering with a leadership company like Google will give other people cause to stop and think about it a minute. I certainly think it moves the ball forward, and I hope others see it the same way."
Both executives said they talked with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and that the FCC planned to comment on the proposal, and that Verizon would almost immediately make them part of its corporate culture.
News of the impending announcement last week appeared to put an end to FCC-brokered talks--which had included Google and Verizon, on targeted legislation to clarify the FCC's broadband oversight authority and sent network neutrality backers to their computers to fire off heated responses that the Google/Verizon announcement was just the first cut in an effort by big companies to carve up the Internet and end online life as we know it.
The accord was not completely out of the blue. Calling themselves unlikely bedfellows, the two companies back in October issued some core Internet principles on which they agreed, including that neither the government nor private sector should control how users access the Internet, that open networks are vital, that the FCC make access to apps and content enforceable on a case-by-case basis, that government should not write overly detailed rules, that whatever rules it writes should not apply to applications or content, and that any customers should be clearly informed about network management practices.
They even made a joint filing at the FCC in January outlining their points of common interest, while also filing separately on their basic disagreement over the need for network neutrality regs--Google favoring a light touch, Verizon preferring hands off.
The two disagreed about whether or not wireless broadband should be included in the openness framework (Verizon said it should not), but did agree that if the FCC did apply it to wireless, it needed to take into account "the unique
technical and competitive circumstances of wireless broadband services."
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