Google-Verizon neutrality plan a meaningful compromise

Jan Dawson/Ovum
10 Aug 2010

Google and Verizon announced on Monday that they were putting forward a proposal for legislation which would deal with the issue of net neutrality. The proposal would give the FCC clear authority to regulate wireline net neutrality while exempting wireless from all but the transparency requirements applied to wireline.

However, it also leaves Verizon and other carriers a major loophole for as yet undefined services which would be exempt from many of the requirements.

Google and Verizon have done what the FCC has so far failed to do: forge a meaningful compromise on net neutrality between the two sides.

Verizon has made real concessions here, notably forgoing paid prioritization on the public Internet. The agreement also proves that last week's rumors and the accusations lobbed at Google were untrue, and it should get some credit for standing firm on the prioritization issue in particular.

However, the proposed legislation leaves a major loophole in the form of the category of 'additional, differentiated services' which would be exempt from most of the requirements. In essence, this category creates a sort of private Internet which wouldn't be subject to most of new rules.

As currently described, the category is wide enough to capture almost anything, and it needs to be significantly tightened in order to be meaningful. However, if this category is clarified and the definition tightened, this may be just the sort of compromise the FCC needs to get the stalled talks back on track, and finally make some progress in this area.

Specifically, the legislation would allow the FCC to prevent discriminatory behavior and the blocking of services and applications consumers want to access, forbid prioritization of services or traffic on the public Internet, enforce transparency over services offered and network management, and give the FCC enforcement authority with hefty fines. It would, however, exempt a vague category of ‘additional, differentiated services’ from most of these rules, and would also exempt wireless services from all but the transparency requirement.

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