Verizon & Google Define an 'Open Internet'

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) called a surprise press conference Monday to say that the companies are putting forward a joint public policy statement "for an Open Internet." (See Eric & Ivan Tackle the Media .)

In a somewhat fractious press call this afternoon, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg talked up seven joint proposals aimed at advancing net neutrality requirements for broadband and asking for increased "transparency" for wireless subscribers.

The pair refuted earlier press reports that Google and Verizon had been talking behind closed doors about a deal to prioritize certain Internet traffic. (See FCC Mutes Closed-Door Net Neutrality Talks.)

"You've read a lot in the press since last Thursday, almost all of it being completely wrong," Schmidt said on the call. "There is no business arrangement, and reports that there were are false, misleading, and incorrect."

Instead, Schmidt says that the two companies have been going over "a lot of common ground" to carve out a public policy proposal related to net neutrality and more. The pair published the proposals in a joint blog.

The proposals include:

  • Both companies want to ensure that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ’s current wireline broadband openness principles are "fully enforceable at the FCC." The principles try to ensure that consumers have access to all legal content on the Internet, and can use what applications, services, and devices they choose, but Google and Verizon say they were "called into serious question by the recent Comcast court decision."

  • The pair are calling on the FCC to ensure that "wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition." This would include paid prioritization of public Internet traffic.

  • The companies want new transparency rules for both wireline and wireless providers. "Broadband providers would be required to give consumers clear, understandable information about the services they offer and their capabilities."

  • The companies want the FCC to have more powers to move in quickly -- on a case-by-case basis -- and fine "bad actors" up to $2 million for breaking the rules.

  • The proposal allows for operators to develop broadband services, like FiOS, that are separate from the public Internet. "Our proposal also includes safeguards to ensure that such online services must be distinguishable from traditional broadband Internet access services and are not designed to circumvent the rules."

  • Wireless is also singled out as a special case in the document. "We both recognize that wireless broadband is different from the traditional wireline world, in part because the mobile marketplace is more competitive and changing rapidly. In recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace, under this proposal we would not now apply most of the wireline principles to wireless, except for the transparency requirement."

    "Wireless is in a slightly different place from the traditional wireline world," Schmidt said on the call.

  • Lastly, the corporate pair reiterated that "it is in the national interest for all Americans to have broadband access to the Internet."

    "We believe this policy framework properly empowers consumers and gives the FCC a role carefully tailored for the new world of broadband," the companies note, "while also allowing broadband providers the flexibility to manage their networks and provide new types of online services."

  • — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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    cnwedit 12/5/2012 | 4:27:33 PM
    re: Verizon & Google Define an 'Open Internet'

    Pro-Net Neutrality groups have been quick to denounce the plan as "evil" and worse than anyone expected in terms of its impact on the Internet. Here's a typical quote, from the SavetheInternet.com Coalition

    "They are promising Net Neutrality only for a certain part of the Internet, one that they’ll likely stop investing in. But they are also paving the way for a new 'Internet' via fiber and wireless phones where Net Neutrality will not apply and corporations can pick and choose which sites people can easily view on their phones or any other Internet device using these networks.

    "It would open the door to outright blocking of applications, just as Comcast did with BitTorrent, or the blocking of content, just as Verizon did with text messages from NARAL Pro-choice America. It would divide the information superhighway, creating new private fast lanes for the big players while leaving the little guy stranded on a winding dirt road.

    "Worse still, this pact would turn the Federal Communications Commission into a toothless watchdog, left fruitlessly chasing complaints and unable to make rules of its own."

    This is the most negative possible spin on what Verizon and Google announced -- there's clearly no middle ground for this faction.

    Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:27:32 PM
    re: Verizon & Google Define an 'Open Internet'

    The immediate backlash followed a bunch of preemptive backlash from last week when the news that Goog and VZ were working on this, though some of the details of what was reported last week and presented today were a somewhat different, and obviously more detailed.

    Among the proposals, I found the one that tries to define diferences between services delivered over the "public" Internet vs. a more managed environment  pretty interesting.  Though Goog and VZ said there was no biz relationship here, this would appear to give them some wiggle room to create a premium, express lane for Web-delivered video services.  That sort of thing would certainly get groups like these to get their hackles up even higher, but does anyone disagree that such tiers should be made available if consumers are willing to pay for them? JB


    OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 4:27:30 PM
    re: Verizon & Google Define an 'Open Internet'

    Back to the good ole days before the 'consent decree'.

    The shoe is on another foot. These are Interneters who bashed Telcos.

    Oh it's all about control.


    PS - If you haven't read, I'm for tiers but equally available to all comers.

    Directed QoS services over cheap internet BW

    Honestly 12/5/2012 | 4:27:30 PM
    re: Verizon & Google Define an 'Open Internet'

    Well, now I feel better that two massive companies that both have huge self interest in making profits via the wireless broadband internet are looking out for us.  Ha ha ho how pathetic.  Oh thank you for defining my choices and rights for me.

    Its about time now to dump my iGoogle page, Gmail, etc and make sure I don't consider moving any business to Verizon.  

    How about you, are you happy with this.?  The only things these companies will understand is If you hit them in the pocket book and yell foul at the top of your lungs.

    Defining an Open Internet is not their role is it.?   Did it feel like this in Germany in 1939.?

    Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:27:30 PM
    re: Verizon & Google Define an 'Open Internet'

    > That sort of thing would certainly get groups like these to get their hackles up even higher, but does anyone disagree that such tiers should be made available if consumers are willing to pay for them?

    Actually, yes. Some groups equate tiered service to a rationing of Internet access, where only the rich get their share. I don't happen to agree with that; just saying it's the argument you'd likely encounter.

    More radically, I think there are still some folks who defend the notion that every bit should be treated equally, no exceptions.  They do so knowing that such a philosophy would preclude, say, giving video bits priority over email bits.  It's a minority view, though, and (from what I've seen) a shrinking one. Had some heated debates with friends about this, back when Net Neutrality was first reaching the public consciousness.

    Duh! 12/5/2012 | 4:27:29 PM
    re: Verizon & Google Define an 'Open Internet'

    "create a premium, express lane for Web-delivered video services"

    Jeff, you need to have your wrist slapped here.  Hard.  I expect overblown rhetoric and lazy metaphors like that from the Freepers and the NY Times, not from Light Reading.  I will rescind the wrist slap if you can define, precisely and in terms your audience of networking professionals can relate to, what you mean by a "premium express lane".  Hint: we usually use the word 'lane' in the context of parallel/serial interfaces (as in 100Gig Ethernet),  not in the context of multiservice networks.

    Please set a better example for your journalist brethren.

    paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:27:29 PM
    re: Verizon & Google Define an 'Open Internet'


    In some ways, I am happy to have them stir the pot.  At least somebody is.  Seriously, have you met the folks at the FCC?  I have a lot of respect for the staff, but the commisioners offices are basically jokes.




    cnwedit 12/5/2012 | 4:27:28 PM
    re: Verizon & Google Define an 'Open Internet'

    I think Ivan Seidenberg defined "lane" pretty effectively - it's a private IP service, not a public best-effort Internet offering.

    I thought it was interesting that the examples Seidenberg cited were things like telemedicine, remote energy management, security, and distance learning -- services that require more hands-on service and guaranteed bandwidth than the public Internet can provide. But the media questions immediately focused on  entertainment services and he was clearly not all the comfortable discussing those.

    Two things occured to me as I was listening to today's press conference: First, a lot of people don't distinguish between IP networks and the Internet, and aren't aware that companies such as Verizon are already offering a TON of private IP services to businesses that can't tolerate the best-effort nature of the public Internet.

    Second, best-effort service itself will be re-shaped by the advent of video, just as dial-up Internet access once completely reshaped the access networks and local Central Offices. When a network built to support local and long-distance voice networks, on which calls typically lasted a few minutes, suddenly had to support connections that were held open for hours at a time, as well as massive demand for second phone lines, the telecom industry had to reshape all of its network planning parameters.

    Video will do that for today's Internet access and then the notion of having private IP options with guaranteed bandwidth will be compelling. And if the Net Neutrality folks want to argue that ISPs should offer a guaranteed bandwidth version of the public Internet that gives everyone the same level of access, that means we are all going to wind up paying a whole lot more for Internet access - and I don't think that's their goal.

    paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:27:27 PM
    re: Verizon & Google Define an 'Open Internet'

    Sorry but TIME OUT on the private IP services.

    If you are offering telemedicine to hospitals, that is not being run across a shared access infrastructure with somebody at a house.  Those services are run over SONET or Carrier Ethernet infrastructure.

    If these are then served over a private and separate IP infrastructure, it would have no advantage over a layer 2 connection.  It could not be shared with the Internet or it would have all the disadvantages that you have stated.  So, that means it is run over separately engineered facilities like any other private network today.

    The concern is the advent of Walled Garden services - SEE WIRELESS to the Wireline world.



    digits 12/5/2012 | 4:27:26 PM
    re: Verizon & Google Define an 'Open Internet'

    I can see brookseven's point totally, that this is bringing the topic out into the open again and creating debate and buzz. I agree that this is a good thing. I'm also not against the concept of tiered services, as long as there are minimum levels of service for best effort (and yes, it's a fine line between decent best effort service and affordability). 

    But by making suggestions that include exceptions for what constitutes Verizon's 'growth infrastructure' (FiOS and broadband mobile), this is an up front 'one rule for me, another for you' that is going to be viciously attacked every time. It seems to me that Seidenberg can expect nothing but the strongest criticism for these suggestions.

    And I find it strange that these folk talk about transparency and then turn on the 'bad media types' that were reporting last week and were faced with a brick wall of denial but little else.

    The sad thing is that, if anyone is going to get their way in the so-called Net Neutrality debate, it will be the companies with massive financial lobbying power, and we heard from two of them yesterday.

    What will the FCC have to say, I wonder, beyond the the following Copps soundbite:

    “Some will claim this announcement moves the discussion forward.  That’s one of its many problems.  It is time to move a decision forward—a decision to reassert FCC authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open Internet now and forever, and to put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations.”

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