Google, Verizon unveil open Internet proposal

ISPs may prioritize on new services; critics cry foul

NEW YORK -- Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg on Monday unveiled a joint policy proposal for an open Internet that detailed their thinking on the much-discussed topic. But the WGA, East, among others, reiterated its criticism of their vision of a two-pronged Internet.

Google and Verizon have been working on a policy framework, but last week drew fire as critics expressed concern it would undermine Internet neutrality, a principle focused on avoiding restrictions or preferred treatment of certain types of content by Internet service providers.

As last week, the two companies on Monday denied a New York Times report that they were looking to create pay tiers for websites or move popular content sites into restricted territory. But they still were met by criticism and concerns.

Their framework indeed calls for wireline broadband providers to not discriminate against lawful content, even if it eats up a lot of bandwidth, and would give regulators the right to step in to stop offenders.
But the framework would also allow Verizon and other Internet service providers to launch new, "differentiated" Web services where they could give priority to certain traffic, but they can't be designed simply to circumvent current open Internet rules.

The WGA, East reiterated concern it had expressed last week. President Michael Winship and executive director Lowell Peterson said the companies were using a "semantic sleight of hand (that) seeks to prioritize online content, granting privilege and advantage to those content creators with deeper pockets who would like nothing better than to destroy the concept of net neutrality."

The sleight of hand referenced was Google's and Verizon's use of a distinction between the current "public Internet" and new, differentiated online services.

Critics also expressed concern that the fast-developing wireless Internet space wasn't fully covered by the rules, even though the Google and Verizon proposal eyes the same basic non-discrimination rules here as in the wireline world.

A post on Google's public policy blog said that the two companies agreed in their proposal that wireline broadband providers wouldn't discriminate against or prioritize lawful content or services in ways that causes harm to users or competition. "This new nondiscrimination principle includes a presumption against pioritization of Internet traffic - including paid prioritization," it said.

Schmidt on a conference call told reporters that the Internet and telecom giants want to ensure an open Internet that would allow for the next Google to get created or "the next YouTube, the next social network." He said that "preserving the open Internet is very important to Google."

Schmidt later re-emphasized that Google is committed to the current "public Internet" and likes the way it works. He also emphasized that YouTube will remain part of this public Internet, that there will be no Verizon YouTube channel and that there will be no prioritization on traffic coming from Google.

There will be "no paid prioritization," Seidenberg echoed and confirmed in his comments on the call. He later also re-emphasized that as long as a site or service is lawful and doesn't threaten the network -- like a virus would do, for example, Verizon will not degrade access to the site or service even if it eats up a lot of bandwidth.

But he also said that under their policy proposal Verizon and other broadband providers could  launch new entertainment, gaming, health care monitoring or other "differentiated services" outside the current "public Internet." Such services could allow the ISPs to also create new revenue streams.

Asked to give an example for such a potential new entertainment service, Seidenberg suggested that the Metropolitan Opera may want to offer 3D content via a specialized, separate network to ensure better quality.

Schmidt said the FCC is expected to review the proposal outlined by Google and Verizon. The executives didn't say which other companies they have reached out to about the proposal.

Congressman Jay Inslee (Wash.) called on the FCC to protect consumers online. "The American people deserve nothing less than a free and open Internet where ideas and innovation are allowed to flourish, and today's proposal has made it even clearer that we cannot rely on industry alone to do just that," he said.