Google and Verizon today unveiled a proposed compromise on how the Federal Communications Commission should frame legislature around the Internet, while preserving Net Neutrality.
In a post on Google's Public Policy blog, the companies revealed their vision of how content providers and broadband providers can work together to maintain an open Internet while also allowing technology to flourish. The proposal isn't quite the "deal" between the two companies that sent consumer advocacy groups into a tailspin when rumors of an agreement between the two first surfaced last week. From the post:
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... 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.
The proposal offered by the companies contains seven elements. They are:
- Make the FCC's current wireline broadband openness principles fully enforceable at the FCC. Those principles ensure that consumers have access to all legal content on the Internet and can use any application, service or devices of their choosing. The Comcast court decision called the enforcement of those principles into question, the companies said.
- New enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices would prohibit wireline broadband providers from discriminating against or prioritizing content, applications or services that cause harm to users or competition. The principle includes a presumption against prioritization of Internet traffic - including paid prioritization.
- Transparency rules. The proposal creates enforceable transparency rules for both wireline and wireless services which requires broadband providers to give consumers clear, understandable information about the services they offer and their capabilities and to provide app and content providers with the information they need about network management practices.
- The FCC's role and authority. The proposal provides for a new enforcement mechanism for the FCC. Specifically, the FCC would enforce these openness policies on a case-by-case basis, using a complaint-driven process and could move swiftly to halt violators, including the authority to impose a penalty of up to $2 million.
- Allow broadband providers to offer additional, differentiated online services, in addition to the Internet access and video services offered today. The companies note that it's 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. The proposal includes safeguards to ensure that such online services are distinguishable from traditional broadband Internet access services and are not designed to circumvent the rules.
- Different rules for wireless - for now. The still-nascent mobile landscape is changing rapidly. Under the proposal, most of the wireline principles would not apply to wireless, except for the transparency requirement. Also, the Government Accountability Office would be required to report to Congress annually on developments in the wireless broadband marketplace.
- Finally, the proposal supports the reform of the Federal Universal Service Fund, so that it is focused on deploying broadband in areas where it is not now available.