Google, Verizon Unveil Net Neutrality Proposal

Google and Verizon unveiled their own proposed version of net neutrality that leaves wired Internet connections alone, but gives wireless companies the authority to control the content that’s delivered to their customers.

The announcement comes only days after rumors that Google and Verizon were working on their own net neutrality deal that steps around the FCC’s own proposals.

According to the two companies, they negotiated the proposal outside of the FCC’s official discussions with Internet service providers to help push the talks forward.

“This new nondiscrimination principle includes a presumption against prioritization of Internet traffic — including paid prioritization,” Google and Verizon said in a joint statement. “So, in addition to not blocking or degrading of Internet content and applications, wireline broadband providers also could not favor particular Internet traffic over other traffic.”

The proposed rules would prohibit service providers from throttling or favoring any content on their traditional wired systems, but would leave wireless Internet providers, like Verizon, free to decide what traffic gets through to customers and how quickly it moves through the network.

Just how Internet traffic is being manipulated would require transparency, so — at least in theory — it would be very clear what information is given priority, and what is being throttled, delayed or blocked.

The two companies also go on to define the FCC’s role and authority in enforcing net neutrality. “Our proposal spells out the FCC’s role and authority in the broadband space,” they said. “In addition to creating enforceable consumer protection and nondiscrimination standards that go beyond the FCC’s preexisting consumer safeguards, the proposal also provides for a new enforcement mechanism for the FCC to use.”

While the proposal would give the FCC power to review net neutrality complaints after the involved parties went through non-government grievance processes, it wouldn’t have the authority to establish rules — in essence, giving the FCC little more that arbitration authority in net neutrality cases.

Despite the positive spin Google and Verizon are offering for their proposal, not everyone is excited about the prospect of a partially throttled Internet. The Coalition, an organization that supports prohibiting companies from favoring certain Internet services and data, sees the proposal as a serious problem.

“The Google-Verizon pact isn’t just as bad as we feared — it’s much worse. They are attacking the Internet while claiming to preserve it,” the coalition said.

According to the organization, the proposal leaves the door open for companies to control Internet traffic on wireless and fiber networks while leaving the wired networks they most likely won’t invest in untouched.

“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,” the group said. “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.”

Google and Verizon, however, don’t think the proposal is as dismal as suggests. “Ultimately, we think this proposal provides the certainty that allows both web startups to bring their novel ideas to users, and broadband providers to invest in their networks,” the two companies said.

So far, the proposal involves only the two companies. No other Internet providers have signed on, nor has the FCC agreed to implement the proposal.