The big talking point around the interwebs lately has surrounded the Google/Verizon (GooVer) net neutrality proposal–or, at least their version of net neutrality. First, let’s start with the text of their proposal (or just skip past it):
A joint policy proposal for an open Internet
Monday, August 9, 2010 at 1:38 PM ET
Posted by Alan Davidson, Google director of public policy and Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president of public affairs, policy, and communications
The original architects of the Internet got the big things right. By making the network open, they enabled the greatest exchange of ideas in history. By making the Internet scalable, they enabled explosive innovation in the infrastructure.
It is imperative that we find ways to protect the future openness of the Internet and encourage the rapid deployment of broadband. Verizon and Google are pleased to discuss the principled compromise our companies have developed over the last year concerning the thorny issue of “network neutrality.”
In October, our two companies issued a shared statement of principles on network neutrality. A few months later we submitted a joint filing to the FCC, and in an April joint op-ed our CEOs discussed their common interest in an open Internet. Since that time, we have listened to all sides of the debate, engaged in good faith with policy makers in multiple venues, and challenged each other to craft a balanced policy framework. We have been guided by the two main goals:
1. Users should choose what content, applications, or devices they use, since openness has been central to the explosive innovation that has made the Internet a transformative medium.
2. America must continue to encourage both investment and innovation to support the underlying broadband infrastructure; it is imperative for our global competitiveness.
Today our CEOs will announce a proposal that we hope will make a constructive contribution to the dialogue. Our joint proposal takes the form of a suggested legislative framework for consideration by lawmakers, and is laid out here. Below we discuss the seven key elements:
First, both companies have long been proponents of the FCC’s current wireline broadband openness principles, which ensure that consumers have access to all legal content on the Internet, and can use what applications, services, and devices they choose. The enforceability of those principles was called into serious question by the recent Comcast court decision. Our proposal would now make those principles fully enforceable at the FCC.
Second, we agree that in addition to these existing principles there should be a new, enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices. 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.
Importantly, this new nondiscrimination principle includes a presumption against prioritization of Internet traffic – including paid prioritization. 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.
Third, it’s important that the consumer be fully informed about their Internet experiences. Our proposal would create enforceable transparency rules, for both wireline and wireless services. Broadband providers would be required to give consumers clear, understandable information about the services they offer and their capabilities. Broadband providers would also provide to application and content providers information about network management practices and any other information they need to ensure that they can reach consumers.
Fourth, because of the confusion about the FCC’s authority following the Comcast court decision, our proposal spells out the FCC’s role and authority in the broadband space. 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.
Fifth, we want the broadband infrastructure to be a platform for innovation. Therefore, our proposal 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. This means that broadband providers can work with other players to develop new services. It is too soon to predict how these new services will develop, but examples might include health care monitoring, the smart grid, advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options. 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. The FCC would also monitor the development of these services to make sure they don’t interfere with the continued development of Internet access services.
Sixth, 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. In addition, the Government Accountability Office would be required to report to Congress annually on developments in the wireless broadband marketplace, and whether or not current policies are working to protect consumers.
Seventh, and finally, we strongly believe that it is in the national interest for all Americans to have broadband access to the Internet. Therefore, 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.
We believe this policy framework properly empowers consumers and gives the FCC a role carefully tailored for the new world of broadband, while also allowing broadband providers the flexibility to manage their networks and provide new types of online services.
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.
Crafting a compromise proposal has not been an easy process, and we have certainly had our differences along the way. But what has kept us moving forward is our mutual interest in a healthy and growing Internet that can continue to be a laboratory for innovation. As policy makers continue to formulate the rules of the road, we hope that other stakeholders will join with us in providing constructive ideas for an open Internet policy that puts consumers in charge and enhances America’s leadership in the broadband world. We stand ready to work with the Congress, the FCC and all interested parties to do just that.
As you can imagine, there has been a lot of discussion and shouting about what was said, what wasn’t said, and what it all means. The general consensus is that GooVer is setting up the foundation for a tiered Internet structure in the U.S.: If you can pay, then you’ll get to play. There is some classic Orwellian doublethink, but the gist is that this is a document by two very large corporations who want to maximize and perpetuate their own largeness. I’m not going to rehash a lot of the talk here; this is the Internet, so here are some links that you really should read:
- How the Google/Verizon proposal could kill the internet in 5 years (IO9)
- A Review of Verizon and Google’s Net Neutrality Proposal (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
- Google-Verizon plan: Why you should worry (Salon)
- There’s Only One Internet (Public Knowledge)
- Verizon & Google Proposal Is Just a Proposal Not (Yet) a Federal Law (The Huffington Post)
While I’m sure there are some who think that this is just commercial technicalities, or that it’s the unregulated marketplace finding its natural level… you’re wrong. In the Information Age, those who have the power are those who have the access to the information. The GooVer proposal is about who has their hand on the spigot: the whole of the internet community (i.e. the spigot is always open), or a few “fatcats” (a/k/a LOLceos) who won’t care in the long run if Mr. or Ms NotRich get access to their share. Oh sure, they’ll get splashed on from time-to-time to keep the naysayers at bay, but mostly they will be left out in the “public Internet” dust bowl.
It’s important to note that this is just a proposal by two companies. That’s all. It’s not law. It’s not regulation. Right now, it’s mostly just a piece of (electronic) paper. So, if you care about keeping open your access to the Internet. If you want to watch TV shows or movies, watch videos on YouTube, or torrent some (legal) files, or Tweet, Skype, or do almost all of those other things you now do without thinking about whether or not you have access to that tier that’s outside the “public Internet”; then now is the time to let your voice be heard.
While it’s good to spread the word through the social nets, it’s not enough. You need to contact the people in government who have the power to actually enact change–and by-and-large, they don’t pay that much attention to Twitter, Facebook, and the like. You need to write or call them and let them know how you feel. How? I’m glad you asked.
To contact members of the U.S. Senate, you can find them here: Senators Members http://senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
If you can think of other relevant targets, feel free. The point is, if you want your way, you’re going to have to rise up and let the government know. They might not be the ideal solution, but it’s likely to be more equitable than what the GooVers will give us. Tell them that the Internet is a public trust, a tool that brings us together more than it will ever drive us apart–that is, unless corporations are allowed to do to the Internet what the airlines have done for air travel…charging fees right and left in the name of “customer service”. Enough. No more.
The Internet is a public pipe–no vested-interest cartel should be allowed to choose how to distribute the flow.