Google, Verizon Find Common Ground on Net Neutrality

"Unlikely bedfellows" both hope for flexibility in new FCC rules

On the eve of the FCC's vote Thursday to propose codified network neutrality rules, Verizon and Google got together Wednesday night both for a dual blog posting on a number of network neutrality issues.

It mirrored the comity that was to come at the FCC meeting, where Republican and Democratic commissioners diverged over policy but joined to take the debate to the next level in the spirit of collegial opposition.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam conceded that the two seemed "unlikely bedfellows" on the issue, and that they do disagree strongly on certain aspects of network neutrality, but they also said that there was a lot they agreed on, including that "it's essential that the Internet remains an unrestricted and open platform -- where people can access any content (so long as it's legal), as well as the services and applications of their choice."

They also said they agreed that any new FCC rules should be flexible and not overly detailed to avoid unintended consequences, though the two disagree on the need for those rules. Verizon sees no basis for new rules, while Google says "light touch" regulations are necessary safeguards to combative incentives for carriers to "pick winners and losers."

The "kumbaya" moment for the network and Internet company got a shout out from FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell at the FCC's public meeting announcing the net neutrality proposal. "I hope that yesterday's joint blog post between Google and Verizon Wireless on the importance of the consumer Internet experience is the start of continued collaboration and dialogue among these two communities, " he said. It also got a shout-out in public comments on the FCC vote by Ed Black, president and CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association (which includes Google and Microsoft, among others).

"We applaud Verizon's progressive attempts to find common ground with other sectors of the Internet ecosystem," said Black, "and its joint declaration with Google on several key points of agreement, including that customers-not network operators-should have the final say when it comes to their online experience."