So far Internet policy has stuck to something called net neutrality where no Internet content is favored over any other Internet content. This may be changing though. Last week a number of sources, including the New York Times, reported Verizon and Google were nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege. Here’s more from the same New York Times piece:
The charges could be paid by companies, like YouTube, owned by Google, for example, to Verizon, one of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, to ensure that its content received priority as it made its way to consumers. The agreement could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users.
Many (including myself) believe big companies paying providers to give their traffic priority would stifle innovative small companies...... the kind of company Google was not that long ago. Others argued (also including myself) that - if carriers can start charging companies to prioritize their traffic - how long will it be before residential customers end up billed in similar ways?
You may ask - as a regulating agency - where has the FCC, with it’s commitment to “transparency” been? Well..... it turns out the FCC has been meeting behind closed doors for the past few months with the big carriers on network neutrality.
Much of last week seemed to be damage control for Verizon, Google and the FCC. The FCC announced they were canceling their closed door carrier meetings and we saw postings like this from Verizon Policy blogger David Fish:
The NYT article regarding conversations between Google and Verizon is mistaken. It fundamentally misunderstands our purpose. As we said in our earlier FCC filing, our goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation. To suggest this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect.
Yesterday, Google and Verizon held a press conference announcing a Verizon-Google Legislative Framework Proposal. Here’s a piece from the Consumer Protections part of the proposal:
A broadband Internet access service provider would be prohibited from preventing users of its broadband Internet access service from--
(1) sending and receiving lawful content of their choice;
(2) running lawful applications and using lawful services of their choice; and
(3) connecting their choice of legal devices that do not harm the service, facilitate theft of service, or harm other users of the service.
The Wireless Broadband piece of yesterdays Verizon-Google proposal is also interesting:
Because of the unique technical and operational characteristics of wireless networks, and the competitive and still-developing nature of wireless broadband services, only the transparency principle would apply to wireless broadband at this time. The U.S. Government Accountability Office would report to Congress annually on the continued development and robustness of wireless broadband Internet access services.
The backlash continues. Here’s commentary after the Verizon-Google press conference from Karl Bode at DSL Reports:
Nothing said today (Monday) changes the fact that this policy framework is very much focused on creating a weak, self-regulatory policy system filled with loopholes instead of real neutrality consumer protections.
As the regulating agency, the FCC needs to step it up and get control of this.