Hi all,

Twin articles on Google and Verizon, ideas on NET NEUTRALITY.

Take care,



Verizon, Google Propose Web Traffic Rules
By REUTERS, August 9, 2010, Filed at 6:29 p.m. ET


WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verizon and Google said on Monday that regulators should be able to police Web traffic over cable and telephone lines, but carriers should control the speed of access to content on wireless devices.

The joint announcement marks a surprising industry compromise over so-called "net neutrality" -- a term that means high-speed Internet providers should not block or slow information or charge websites to pay for a fast lane to reach users more quickly. But it is unclear if the giant companies can get lawmakers or regulators to move forward with their proposal.

But analysts said the Federal Communications Commission is unlikely to cheer for a proposal that would only apply to a slice of Internet channels.

The FCC has been trying for about a year to craft rules for how Internet traffic should be managed on telephone, cable and wireless devices. That effort was thrown into disarray in April when a court ruled the FCC overstepped its bounds by sanctioning Comcast Corp for blocking bandwidth-hogging online applications.

The proposal by the telecommunications and Internet giants on Monday came after the FCC failed to broker an agreement on net neutrality among broadband providers and Web companies.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Rebecca Arbogast said the compromise would not be enough to avert a potential move by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to reclassify broadband into a stricter regulatory regime -- one that would allow it to police Internet traffic.

"He is looking for greater network neutrality safety safeguards and a broader agreement among parties," Arbogast said.

Failure to agree on rules for wireless devices -- which has broad implications for Silicon Valley, media companies and others trying to determine their next investments -- is one of the major reasons the talks at the FCC failed.

Handheld devices is a lucrative business for companies expecting growth in wireless broadband Internet services as more people use Blackberries and other smartphones.

Public interest groups lashed out at the proposal, calling it another failure to protect wireless Internet users.

"That alone makes this arrangement a nonstarter," said Andy Schwartzman, head of the Media Access Project.

At the meetings, the hope among FCC officials and the companies was that, if they could solve the net neutrality conundrum, the FCC would drop a broadband reclassification proposal.

But the meetings were suspended after reports of the side deal between Verizon Communications Inc and Google Inc, who came up with their own proposal after previously being on opposite sides of the debate.

A spokeswoman for the FCC, which is trying to determine if net neutrality rules should apply to both "land lines" and wireless devices, declined to comment.


The Google and Verizon chief executives said on a call with reporters that the proposal does not represent a business arrangement and there are no plans to provide Verizon consumers with a dedicated pipeline to watch YouTube videos and other Google products.

"As far as we're concerned, there would be no paid prioritization of any traffic over the Internet," said Verizon Chief Executive Ivan Seidenberg.

But while the companies said the proposal does not allow for paid prioritization on the public Internet, carriers should be able to make private arrangements with service and application providers to let them offer differentiated services outside of the public Internet.

"Examples of this could be very highly sophisticated healthcare monitoring services, or smart grid services or super advanced educational type things, or even entertainment services," Seidenberg said.

AT&T Inc said it is not party to this proposal, but did not outright oppose the proposal.

"The Verizon-Google agreement demonstrates that it is possible to bridge differences on this issue," said AT&T spokeswoman Claudia Jones.

Seidenberg and Google CEO Eric Schmidt said regulators should police Internet service providers to ensure they do not block or slow Internet traffic on phone lines.

Telephone companies previously suggested that another agency with competition and consumer protection missions such as the Federal Trade Commission might be better suited to regulate broadband.

Google and Verizon said the FCC should have full enforcement authority over the rules, including the ability to impose up to $2 million fines on companies that violate the proposed rules.

However, it would not let the FCC go beyond the net neutrality rules written in potential legislation.

"This deal proposes to keep the FCC from making rules at all," said Joel Kelsey, political adviser at Free Press, another public interest group.

(Reporting by John Poirier and Sinead Carew; editing by Andre Grenon and Robert MacMillan)


Google-Verizon Pact: It Gets Worse
Craig AaronManaging Director, Free Press

Craig Aaron: Google-Verizon Pact: It Gets Worse

So Google and Verizon went public today with their "policy framework" -- better known as the pact to end the Internet as we know it.

News of this deal broke this week, sparking a public outcry that's seen hundreds of thousands of Internet users calling on Google to live up to its "Don't Be Evil" pledge.

But cut through the platitudes the two companies (Googizon, anyone?) offered on today's press call, and you'll find this deal is even worse than advertised.

The proposal is one massive loophole that sets the stage for the corporate takeover of the Internet.

Real Net Neutrality means that Internet service providers can't discriminate between different kinds of online content and applications. It guarantees a level playing field for all Web sites and Internet technologies. It's what makes sure the next Google, out there in a garage somewhere, has just as good a chance as any giant corporate behemoth to find its audience and thrive online.

What Google and Verizon are proposing is fake Net Neutrality. You can read their framework for yourself here or go here to see Google twisting itself in knots about this suddenly "thorny issue." But here are the basics of what the two companies are proposing:

1. Under their proposal, there would be no Net Neutrality on wireless networks -- meaning anything goes, from blocking websites and applications to pay-for-priority treatment.

2. Their proposed standard for "non-discrimination" on wired networks is so weak that actions like Comcast's widely denounced blocking of BitTorrent would be allowed.

3. The deal would let ISPs like Verizon -- instead of Internet users like you -- decide which applications deserve the best quality of service. That's not the way the Internet has ever worked, and it threatens to close the door on tomorrow's innovative applications. (If RealPlayer had been favored a few years ago, would we ever have gotten YouTube?)

4. The deal would allow ISPs to effectively split the Internet into "two pipes" -- one of which would be reserved for "managed services," a pay-for-pay platform for content and applications. This is the proverbial toll road on the information superhighway, a fast lane reserved for the select few, while the rest of us are stuck on the cyber-equivalent of a winding dirt road.

5. The pact proposes to turn the Federal Communications Commission a toothless watchdog, left fruitlessly chasing consumer complaints but unable to make rules of its own. Instead, it would leave it up to unaccountable (and almost surely industry-controlled) third parties to decide what the rules should be.

If there's a silver lining in this whole fiasco it's that, last I checked anyway, it wasn't up to Google and Verizon to write the rules. That's why we have Congress and the FCC.

Certainly by now we should have learned -- from AIG, Massey Energy, BP, you name it -- what happens when we let big companies regulate themselves or hope they'll do the right thing.

We need the FCC -- with the backing of Congress and President Obama -- to step and do the hard work of governing. That means restoring the FCC's authority to protect Internet users and safeguarding real Net Neutrality once and for all.

Such a move might not be popular on Wall Street or even in certain corners of Silicon Valley, but it's the kind of leadership the public needs right now.