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Did Google "Sell Out" on Net Neutrality?

08.12.2010
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There's been plenty of buzz about Google's recent collaboration with Verizon on the subject of Net neutrality.  It's important to note that this collaboration has only resulted in a proposal in the form of a "suggested legislative framework for consideration by lawmakers."  Some media have been treating this proposal as more than what it is.  Here were its seven key points:

1)  The proposal would give the FCC the ability to enforce broadband principles that insure access to all legal content on the web using any applications, services, and devices.  US courts recently decided that the FCC currently did not have this kind of power.  

2)  The proposed laws would prohibit discriminatory IP practices that prioritize or slow down connections to lawful internet content.  Broadband providers also can't favor particular internet traffic over other traffic (for example, paid prioritization).

3)  Broadband providers would have to disclose understandable information about their services and capabilities.  Application and content providers would also get information from the IPs.  

4)  The proposal spells out the potential role and authority of the FCC in the broadband space.  They would enforce openness on a case-by-case basis, using a complaint-driven process.  It could stop discriminatory practices quickly and impose penalties of up to $2 million on violators.

5)  IPs would be allowed to offer differentiated online services in addition to internet access and video services.  Examples could be a smart grid or new entertainment/gaming options.  The proposal would ensure that these services are distinguishable from traditional internet access so that IPs don't try and circumvent the rules.

6)  Because the mobile marketplace is still very competitive and changing rapidly, the proposal would not apply the net neutrality principles to mobile networks, except for the transparency requirement.  The Government Accountability Office would be required to report annually to Congress on the developments in the mobile internet marketplace, and whether current policies are protecting customers.

7)  Finally, the Federal Universal Service Fund would be focused on providing broadband in areas where it is still unavailable.

The 6th element is where the "sold out"/"deal with the devil" talk comes into play.  Most of it was precipitated by an inaccurate New York Times article which suggested that this was mainly a business arrangement, when in fact, it hinges completely on the authority of the FCC.  The proposal does however seem to favor mobile internet providers in any competition they might have with the wired broadband providers.

Google made an argument for why the mobile internet shouldn't have net neutrality regulations yet:

First, the wireless market is more competitive than the wireline market, given that consumers typically have more than just two providers to choose from. Second, because wireless networks employ airwaves, rather than wires, and share constrained capacity among many users, these carriers need to manage their networks more actively. Third, network and device openness is now beginning to take off as a significant business model in this space.

Their proposal indicates that Congress would be able to propose new regulations on the mobile internet based on the annual reports by the Government Accountability Office.  Google also assured people that broadband providers could not "cannibalize" the public internet with its special offerings options because of the safeguards in the proposal.  The services must be "distinguishable in purpose and scope" from basic internet access.  

Finally, Google says this deal has nothing to do with Android and its relationship with Verizon.  They want to be clear that this is not a business deal, and it is certainly not two corporations attempting to legislate the future of the internet on their own.  Google hopes that all stakeholders will weigh in on the issue of Net Neutrality.

Comments

mo sy replied on Fri, 2010/08/13 - 10:17am

imho, Google sold out by proposing net "neutrality" for land lines in the first place. Its scary how the conversation quickly switched form no rules vs. rules to partial rules vs. full rules.

martin hardy replied on Sat, 2010/08/14 - 5:46pm

I think Google is cheating as we scene in the case of Google Street View issue where they not only found guilty of accessing wireless internet withouth prior approval plus interfering in people privacy.

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