Just days after the FCC announced it was abandoning its efforts to reach a compromise on net neutrality, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg laid out a "joint policy proposal" that would provide guidelines for how information and Internet traffic should be handled over wireless and wireline networks.
Google published the terms of the Google-Verizon agreement in a blog post titled "A Joint Policy for an Open Internet."
Their plan, which does not treat wireless and wireline networks equally and has been accused of having a "giant, enormous, science-fiction-quality" loophole, includes seven key elements, detailed in the slideshow below: (READ REACTIONS):
1) It would make the FCC's current wireline broadband openness principles fully enforceable by the FCC. (DARREN HESTER / FLICKR)
2) It would add an "enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices." Google writes, "This means that for the first time, 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." The prohibition would extend to favoring certain Internet content. (The practice of prioritizing and restricting traffic is known as "throttling.")
3) It would "create enforceable transparency rules, for both wireline and wireless services." (SMLIONS12 / FLICKR)
4) In order to clear up confusion following the Comcast ruling, the FCC's authority, role, and means of enforcing the rules is spelled out in the proposal: "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. Specifically, the FCC would enforce these openness policies on a case-by-case basis, using a complaint-driven process. The FCC could move swiftly to stop a practice that violates these safeguards, and it could impose a penalty of up to $2 million on bad actors."
5) It would "allow broadband providers to offer additional, differentiated online services, in addition to the Internet access and video services (such as Verizon's FIOS TV) offered today." In other words, "broadband providers can work with other players to develop new services." According to the proposal, these new services could include: "health care monitoring, the smart grid, advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options." (CC CHAMPMAN / FLICKR)
6) The proposal distinguishes between wireline and wireless networks, and notes that "most", but not all, of the wireline principles would be applicable to wireless networks: "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."
7) The proposal states, "we support reform of the Federal Universal Service Fund, so that it is focused on deploying broadband in areas where it is not now available."
"There is no prioritization of traffic that would come from Google over the Internet, period," Verizon's CEO said. "There would be no paid prioritization of traffic over the Internet. If someone else wants to bundle capabilities in a new service that has different features, and those were transparent to everybody and measurable, that would be permissible." Both CEOs also emphasized that there was no business arrangement between the two companies.
Schmidt made reference to an article by the New York Times published Thursday, which reported that Google and Verizon were finalizing a deal 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." "You've read a lot in the press since Thursday, almost all of which has been completely wrong," Schmidt said.
The proposal represents the two firms' "joint efforts to offer suggestions to the public policy arena to see how we can move our industry forward," explained Seidenberg. "We want to make sure we don't go backwards, because we end up with a lot of false promises." According to Seidenberg, the FCC will review the proposal and comment on it soon.
Initial reactions to the plan have been mixed, although critics have already slammed the proposal, arguing that it will create a two-tiered Internet and has major loopholes. Read what critics and supporters are saying about the proposal here.