Google, Verizon deny mobile pay tiers plan

Google Tweet confirms they're committed to an open Internet

Google and Verizon Wireless on Thursday denied that they are looking to create pay tiers for websites on mobile phones.

"(NY Times) is wrong," Google said on its public policy Twitter feed. "We've not had any convos with VZN (Verizon) about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open Internet."

A New York Times report "is mistaken," David Fish, Verizon's executive director of media relations, wrote on the telecom giant's public policy blog, echoing Google. "It fundamentally misunderstands our purpose. As we said in our earlier FCC filing, our goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation." He added: "To suggest this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect."

Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, East, in a statement that was likely crafted before the denial from Google and Verizon criticized their reported plans. If a deal like the one the New York Times report had suggested was to happen, the Internet would start resembling the traditional TV and film business, which he said are "completely dominated by a handful of multinational conglomerates." And he drew comparisons to the proposed acquisition of NBC Universal by cable giant Comcast.

"The Internet and other digital media offer an unprecedented opportunity for creators to reach consumers and for people to watch and read what they want, when they want," Peterson said. "This is very different from traditional media in which major studios, distributors and television networks control the flow of movies and programs. Digital technology presents a vast range of possibilities to content creators and consumers alike, and it would be a tragedy to squeeze all of that into a narrow commercial band."

Calling a Verizon-Google agreement "the deal of the titans," he concluded: "The world's biggest media companies want to define how people will get content over the Internet. Money talks; independent content creators: take a walk...We have seen the future, and it is exactly like the past."

He also suggested: "If one of our members had written the Verizon-Google deal into a script, it would have been rejected as too obvious, too heavy-handed."

Finally, Peterson also drew a comparison to the planned Comcast-NBC Universal deal. "Comcast the content distributor will have a huge economic incentive to discriminate in favor of the content it creates as a studio and television network."

The debate was followed by the FCC's announcement that it has ended efforts to broker a compromise among key cable, phone and Internet companies on "network neutrality" rules. Net neutrality proponents want to ensure that broadband providers can not discriminate against certain types of Internet traffic using their networks.

"We have called off this round of stakeholder discussions," said Edward Lazarus, FCC chief of staff. "It has been productive on several fronts, but has not generated a robust framework to preserve the openness and freedom of the Internet -- one that drives innovation, investment, free speech and consumer choice." He added that "all options remain on the table as we continue to seek broad input on this vital issue."
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