Five Sentences from Google/Verizon that Could Change the Net Forever

by Matthew L. Schafer

With the release of a policy proposal on Monday, Google and Verizon confirmed speculation and early reports by The New York Times and Bloomberg that the two companies had come to an agreement on a proposal regarding how to move forward with online traffic management.  The announcement has some consumer advocacy organizations declaring that the agreement was “worse than expected.”  Wired magazine is calling the proposal a “two-tiered” Internet.

“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,” Google argued today on its policy blog.

Despite Google and Verizon’s claims to support an open Internet, the two page policy proposal removes any hope of moving forward with the open Internet as we know it.  Specifically, five sentences would offer corporations the ability to do almost anything they would like.  Anything ranges from throttling traffic to blocking websites to prioritizing some content over other content.

Here are five sentences from the Google/Verizon proposal that could change the Net forever and what they really mean:

1. “Prioritization of Internet traffic would be presumed inconsistent with the non-discrimination standard, but the presumption could be rebutted.”

Interpretation: Favoring some traffic over other traffic is not okay, but an ISP could do it anyway if they have a good argument for it.

2. “Broadband Internet access service providers are permitted to engage in reasonable network management… (and) to prioritize general classes or types of Internet traffic.”

Interpretation: ISPs can throttle/prioritize traffic in whatever way they feel is necessary for the sake of the network.

3. “Because of the unique technical and operational characteristics of wireless networks, and the competitive and still-developing nature of wireless broadband services, only the transparency principle would apply to wireless broadband at this time.”

Interpretation: Since wireless Internet is “different” from wired Internet, net neutrality is not applicable to wireless Internet.

4. “The FCC would enforce the consumer protection and nondiscrimination requirements through case-by-case adjudication, but would have no rulemaking authority with respect to those provisions.”

Interpretation: The FCC has no authority to make rules to keep the Internet a level playing field for everyone.

5. “The FCC would have exclusive authority to oversee broadband Internet access service, but would not have any authority over Internet software applications, content or services.”

Interpretation: The FCC has no power to regulate ISPs at any level, but it can “oversee” ISPs and punish them after the fact with $2 million dollar fine.

The announcement of the proposal has left both the FCC and Democratic lawmakers less than happy.  Indeed, some lawmakers like Representative Ed Markey [D-MA] said today that corporations have no place in deciding public policy.

“Rather than a proposal from two corporate giants, a public process at the FCC is needed to ensure the preservation of an unfettered Internet ecosystem that will continue to be an indispensable platform for innovation, investment, entrepreneurship, and free speech,”  Marky said.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps also highlighted the need for the FCC to move forward in crafting legislation, saying in a statement that “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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Updated (8/10/2010 11:16): Sentence 5 interpretation by adding “and punish them after the fact with $2 million dollar fine.”

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About Matthew L. Schafer

Matthew L. Schafer graduated from the University of Illinois in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Media Studies. He later attended Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication where he earned a Masters of Mass Communication and Georgetown University Law Center where he earned his J.D.
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11 Responses to Five Sentences from Google/Verizon that Could Change the Net Forever

  1. Dave in Memphis says:

    So this is a good summary; but what is important is, WHAT CAN WE DO TO STOP THIS!

    Frankly, I have no clue, I live in a red state, and my senators/reps, will not listen to me.

    I have called the FCC and gotten that run around.

    That is what I want to know. I’ll subscribe to follow-ups for this post if so if you figure out what we can do –concrete actions– to stop this, please post a reply with a link.

    Thanks!

  2. Matthew Maurice says:

    Perspective is everything in life, and there are no shortages of perspective on this. Personally, my admittedly extremely cynical one, is that this is coldly calculated effort by two very large and profitable companies to use a prevalent distrust/disapproval of “big government” to gain support of the marginalization of a potential regulating agency. If Veroggle Wireless can sideline the FCC, they’ll be free to do just about whatever they want, which is to make even more money than they already do. Two things facts have been made very clear in several ways over the last two years, government regulation of large corporations is woefully inadequate and many corporations are incapable of operating in safe, ethical, or even legal manners without strict government oversight. Look at the harm that Massey Energy, AIG, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and BP have done to the public good with federal regulatory enforcement, now imagine what Veroogle Wireless can do with none whatsoever.

    • Matt Schafer says:

      Hi Matthew,

      I couldn’t agree more. I think that this proposal is absolutely inadequate and would leave the government unable to prevent discrimination of content online. After the Comcast decision in April and this policy proposal, it seems clear that the only way to move forward is for the FCC to reassert the authority it was understood to have before the Comcast decision.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Best,

      Matt

  3. Brett Glass says:

    No legislator, in any state, should want any form of “network neutrality” legislation or regulation, whether it’s the Google/Verizon one or anyone else’s. The Net has survived and prospered for decades without regulation. Let the camel’s nose into the tent, and the Net we know and love will be gone forever. Especially since there are Commissioners at the FCC who have admitted that they’re just itching to censor.

    What’s more, the rules that the FCC has already proposed aren’t “neutral.” They are slanted toward a large campaign contributor: Google. (And no wonder: they were written by appointees which were handpicked by Google.) They’d raise the cost of Internet service, kill competition, degrade quality of service, deter competition and deployment…. We just do not want to go there. We do not even want the FCC to have any authority to regulate the Net. It’s just asking for trouble.

    • Matt Schafer says:

      Hi Brett,

      I understand your concern about having anyone regulate an open Internet. I would say, however, that after the April decision by the United States Court of Appeals in favor of Comcast has already killed net neutrality. Comcast can (and does) throttle traffic if they want for the first time ever.

      The net neutrality plan from the FCC is a tailored approach to give FCC the power to prevent large ISPs from discriminating against certain types of traffic. You can read about the “Third Way” plan here.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Best,

      Matt

      • Brett Glass says:

        Yes; at the moment ISPs can throttle and shape traffic. And do you see them doing it in any way that is harmful to consumers? No. This is proof that lobbyists are ginning up bogeymen to promote unnecessary and harmful regulation of the Net. (And the lobbyists who are doing this, ironically, work for Google! Google is playing a “good cop/bad cop” game with its lobbyists.)

        My own ISP does throttle and shape traffic, and doing so IMPROVES the user experience. The proposed FCC regulations – which were written by Google lobbyists – would actually prohibit the rate plans that my customers choose most often and like the most. To impose them would help Google’s selfish interests, but would harm consumers. What’s more, they’d open the door to government censorship of the Net. Just say no to “network neutrality” regulations!

  4. Pingback: Shame on You, Google

  5. M Richards says:

    Brett Glass says:
    August 12, 2010 at 8:59 am
    “Yes; at the moment ISPs can throttle and shape traffic. And do you see them doing it in any way that is harmful to consumers? No. This is proof that lobbyists are ginning up bogeymen to promote unnecessary and harmful regulation of the Net.”

    Yes, I *do* see them doing in harmful ways to the *consumer.* My network traffic is throttled. I’m a consumer. It’s harmful. I pay them X dollars for network traffic that is on par with the bandwidth available in 1992. This is 2010. No improvement. More dollars. Twice the dollars, in fact. That is harmful.

    Comcast has carte blanche to abuse and encroach now. Verizon, likewise. Google is not only not helping, it is feeding this to the two primary owners of the broadband backbone. Are YOU gonna open up shop and provide better service? I doubt that. When you do, send me a broadband postcard. I’ll check you out.

    Meanwhile, you —YOU—should be regulated. Stiffly.

  6. Raphael N. says:

    How I understand the Net Neutrality issue (excuse my ignorance):

    If we let the FCC regulate:
    Guaranteed equal access for equal costs with the chance of government censorship (e.g., through government regulations).

    If we let the corporations run free:
    Guaranteed unequal access for greater costs with the chance of corporate censorship (e.g., by throttling providers access to consumers or consumers access to providers).

    Conclusion:
    Either way, the consumer’s #$%@ed – just like we’ve always been. (Hey aren’t we supposed to be able to vote wtih our dollars, or something? [No, not really; we'll continue to use the service because we're so used to being shafted by now for everything else, why bother fighting? It's never gotten us anywhere before and it's not gonna get us anywhere now.])

    – Griffinhart

  7. Pingback: Top Ten: A Year in Media as Told by LWR | Lippmann Would Roll

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