Google: We're Not Net Neutrality Sell-Outs
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), amid an outcry over a policy proposal issued with Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), tried to soothe critics today in a blog post challenging the supposed myths associated with the agreement.
"We don't expect everyone to agree with every aspect of our proposal, but there has [sic] been a number of inaccuracies about it," noted Google lawyer Richard Whitt in the post.
The move comes roughly four days after Google and Verizon's press conference to explain their joint public-policy statement "for an Open Internet." There, they refuted earlier reports that they had negotiated a deal to prioritize certain types of Internet traffic or create specialized, paid-for broadband expressways. (See Cable Tees Off on FCC's 'Third Way' Proposal.)
Among the points of the proposal, which was presented as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considers new broadband policies, is a call to ensure that wireline broadband service providers are prevented from discriminating against or prioritizing lawful Internet content, apps, or services in a way that would end up harming users or competition. That FCC enforcement protection would extend to paid prioritization of public Internet traffic but would allow some wiggle room for some operator-managed broadband services. The companies are also pushing for transparency rules that apply to both wireline and wireless service providers, but they advocate that some of those discrimination principles not be applied to wireless. (See Verizon & Google Define an 'Open Internet', FCC Mutes Closed-Door Net Neutrality Talks, and Eric & Ivan Tackle the Media .)
Google's been accused of selling out, but Whitt's blog post says the company merely "decided to partner with a major broadband provider on the best policy solution we could device together. We're not saying this solution is perfect, but we believe that a proposal that locks in key enforceable protections for consumers is preferable to no protection at all."
Another myth, according to Whitt: that the proposal would eliminate network neutrality over wireless. He acknowledged that Google had previously advocated for "certain openness safeguards" for both wireline and wireless, but argued that the joint proposal would ensure that the wireless market "remain free from regulation for now, while Congress keeps a watchful eye."
Whitt reasoned that wireless deserves special treatment because it's more competitive than wireline and because wireless operators "need to manage their networks more actively," because capacity is shared among many users.
He reiterated that the joint proposal is "not a business deal." Although Google and Verizon are big wireless business partners, "ultimately this proposal has nothing to do with Android."
He also bristled at the suggestion that the Verizon and Google are privately legislating the future of the Internet via the proposal, claiming it's only a "framework" offered up for Congress's consideration. He's hopeful that other stakeholders will weigh in.
Regardless, the proposal has struck a serious nerve among network neutrality advocates. Free Press and other groups that are critical of the proposal reportedly plan to stage a rally Friday at Google's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters on Friday.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable