Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Net Neutrality as Seen by Google and Verizon

In the last week there has been a lot of speculation over a deal Google and Verizon were working on regarding net neutrality. First covered by New York Times, refuted in part by Google and Verizon, and later presented as a policy document from Google and Verizon, quite a lot of chatter has been going on all over the web.

In the last 24 to 48 hours, I have seen many Twitter shots, snarky blog posts, and general incredulity over the Google/Verizon proposal. Not nearly as many people appear to have read the full proposal as are commenting, however. On top of that, there is some confusion about what net neutrality means as a concept versus what it means as adopted by the FCC in the United States.

Given the recent ruling in the Comcast / FCC fight back in April, the FCC may be looking like a lame duck to some and there is fear that Google and Verizon might be stepping into the fight while the FCC is bloodied. If you missed the ruling, here's the gist from Reuters:

Comcast also defended its practice of blocking services like BitTorrent, saying it was trying to manage Web traffic flowing over its network to prevent degradation of service for the majority of its users. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia sided with Comcast and said that the FCC failed to show that it had the necessary authority to impose such restrictions on the provider's network operations.

Pile this on with an observation from Engadget, and it makes sense that now is the time for Verizon and Google to move in and try to assert themselves:

What's interesting is that the announcement comes just few days after the FCC declared its closed-door net-neutrality meetings with ISPs and other interested parties to be dead — it's odd for Google and Verizon to claim their new proposal is just an extension of their joint statement in general support of net neutrality from last October when it's very clearly an articulation of a specific plan that was undoubtedly proposed and rejected during those failed meetings.

Google and Verizon jointly posted to each of their corporate blogs, discussing what readers will find in the new proposal. They claim to have been guided by two main goals:

  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.

A big concern from the general public (that understand these concepts) is about wireless. Google/Verizon argue that wireless broadband is too nascent of a market to impose these standards, and others argue that Google/Verizon is building in a loophole and wireless shouldn't be treated any differently.

At the risk of adding more noise to the debate with my opinions, which may shift as more information comes to light, take some time to review the links at the bottom of this article and the proposal from Google and Verizon that I am embedding here.

Verizon-Google Legislative Framework Proposal

Remember, this is only a proposal. Probably much debate will happen as a result. I just hope the debate is intelligent and open, and not more of the "Google is doing evil" snarkiness that I am primarily seeing now.

Further Reading

Edits include sorting the links by date and adding links after the original posting date of this entry.

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