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Joint Policy Proposal for an Open Internet

Tom Tauke posted in Policy PolicyBlog  on August 09, 2010, 01:47 PM EST

Jointly posted by Tom Tauke, Verizon Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, Policy and Communications and Alan Davidson, Google Director of Public Policy.

 

The original architects of the Internet got the big things right. By making the network open, they enabled the greatest exchange of ideas in history. By making the Internet scalable, they enabled explosive innovation in the infrastructure.

 

 It is imperative that we find ways to protect the future openness of the Internet and encourage the rapid deployment of broadband. Verizon and Google are pleased to discuss the principled compromise our companies have developed over the last year concerning the thorny issue of “network neutrality.”


In October, our two companies issued a shared statement of principles on network neutrality. A few months later we submitted a joint filing to the FCC, and in an April joint op-ed our CEOs discussed their common interest in an open Internet. Since that time, we have listened to all sides of the debate, engaged in good faith with policy makers in multiple venues, and challenged each other to craft a balanced policy framework.  We have been guided by the two main goals:

 

1.     Users should choose what content, applications, or devices they use, since openness has been central to the explosive innovation that has made the Internet a transformative medium.

2.     America must continue to encourage both investment and innovation to support the underlying broadband infrastructure; it is imperative for our global competitiveness.


Today our CEOs will announce a proposal that we hope will make a constructive contribution to the dialogue. Our joint proposal takes the form of a suggested legislative framework for consideration by lawmakers, and is laid out here. Below we discuss the seven key elements: 

 

First, both companies have long been proponents of the FCC’s current wireline broadband openness principles, which ensure that consumers have access to all legal content on the Internet, and can use what applications, services, and devices they choose.  The enforceability of those principles was called into serious question by the recent Comcast court decision. Our proposal would now make those principles fully enforceable at the FCC.

Second, we agree that in addition to these existing principles there should be a new, enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices. This means that for the first time, wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition.

Importantly, this new nondiscrimination principle includes a presumption against prioritization of Internet traffic - including paid prioritization. So, in addition to not blocking or degrading of Internet content and applications, wireline broadband providers also could not favor particular Internet traffic over other traffic. 

Third, it’s important that the consumer be fully informed about their Internet experiences. Our proposal would create enforceable transparency rules, for both wireline and wireless services. Broadband providers would be required to give consumers clear, understandable information about the services they offer and their capabilities. Broadband providers would also provide to application and content providers information about network management practices and any other information they need to ensure that they can reach consumers. 

Fourth, because of the confusion about the FCC’s authority following the Comcast court decision, our proposal spells out the FCC’s role and authority in the broadband space. In addition to creating enforceable consumer protection and nondiscrimination standards that go beyond the FCC’s preexisting consumer safeguards, the proposal also provides for a new enforcement mechanism for the FCC to use. Specifically, the FCC would enforce these openness policies on a case-by-case basis, using a complaint-driven process. The FCC could move swiftly to stop a practice that violates these safeguards, and it could impose a penalty of up to $2 million on bad actors. 


Fifth, we want the broadband infrastructure to be a platform for innovation. Therefore, our proposal would allow broadband providers to offer additional, differentiated online services, in addition to the Internet access and video services (such as Verizon's FIOS TV) offered today. This means that broadband providers can work with other players to develop new services. It is 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. Our proposal also includes safeguards to ensure that such online services must be distinguishable from traditional broadband internet access services and are not designed to circumvent the rules. The FCC would also monitor the development of these services to make sure they don’t interfere with the continued development of Internet access services. 

Sixth, we both recognize that wireless broadband is different from the traditional wireline world, in part because the mobile marketplace is more competitive and changing rapidly. In recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace, under this proposal we would not now apply most of the wireline principles to wireless, except for the transparency requirement. In addition, the Government Accountability Office would be required to report to Congress annually on developments in the wireless broadband marketplace, and whether or not current policies are working to protect consumers. 

Seventh, and finally, we strongly believe that it is in the national interest for all Americans to have broadband access to the Internet. Therefore, we support reform of the Federal Universal Service Fund, so that it is focused on deploying broadband in areas where it is not now available. 

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.

 

Ultimately, we think this proposal provides the certainty that allows both web startups to bring their novel ideas to users, and broadband providers to invest in their networks.

Crafting a compromise proposal has not been an easy process, and we have certainly had our differences along the way. But what has kept us moving forward is our mutual interest in a healthy and growing Internet that can continue to be a laboratory for innovation. 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.

 

Reader Comments
Looks like this will be a knockdown drag our fight at the FCC. I won't get into a specific discussion on the whole "wireless is different" argument, because the gaping holes by presented by the proposals on wireline broadband access are big enough to drive a truck through. 1. Network Management. The assertion that "reasonable network management includes any technically sound practice" is overbroad, and not sufficiently limited by a requirement that the practices employed be "consistent with the technical requirements, standards, or best practices adopted by an independent, widely-recognized Internet community governance initiative or standard-setting organization." 2. Additional Online Services. To give the ISPs the seeemingly unfettered ability to prioritize their own "additional online services" content runs afoul of the entire concept of the web. With the reality of limited wireline broadband competition, one can envision the situations where third party content (particularly competing video services like HULU, or YouTube) could be severely limited with little recourse to the consumers. 3. Case-by-case enforcement. To forego FCC rulemaking authority puts all of the power in the hands of the big players, and it antithetical what should be the true mission of the agency. FCC enforcement of the consumer protection and nondiscrimination requirements through case-by-case adjudication would essentially render the consumer voiceless in the face of the slow, lobbyist and litigation-dependent process currently in place.
William L Aprea, Esq. posted on 8/9/2010 4:46:34 PM
Is there a version of the proposal that does not require Flash and JavaScript to view? I find sites using client-side scripting are rarely transparent.
James Phillips posted on 8/9/2010 4:54:11 PM
Off to Sprint and a local cable company I go. I will not idle by as Verizon attempts more profit and to dictate my digital life. There are plenty of search engines that work without the need for Google. There are far too many options than to continue paying the prices that Verizon demands. This ruins the definition of being the best and customer satisfaction.
Barney posted on 8/9/2010 5:30:28 PM
na
Lurleen Sargent posted on 8/9/2010 7:23:03 PM
it's not enough that there are already tiered costs for internet access? now you want to add an additional layer and charge extra in addition to the costs that these "new" applications will cost? this just sounds like a way to raise access rates. how will these new services/applications relate to the already tiered access costs for wireline networks? or is this just a way to charge more for wireless access because those costs will come down just as the cost of a cellular phone call did.
george_lol posted on 8/10/2010 8:03:07 AM
About what I expected from VZ -- you guys have never given up on the walled garden, and this is just a way to bring it back and use the regs to codify it. Have to say I expected better from Google, though. Anyway, I'm sure you anticipated what the response to your proposal would be from the save the internet types, so I'm not sure what your game is on this yet. Maybe you just figure the avg. consumer won't realize what you are trying to pull and it'll just blow over, or that your lobbying clout will win the day. But I suspect that people aren't going to be so easily fooled. It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out.
M. L. Hunt posted on 8/10/2010 11:43:18 AM
This all sounds pretty good except for exempting wireless access from these rules. I think it's safe to say that many people in the next few years will ONLY use wireless to access the internet (in fact, with the proliferation of smartphones, many people today primarily use wireless). Many people buy laptops today w/ 3G cards installed. How confusing and stupid would it be to access a different internet on wireless, and then when you get home and connect to your home network you are on a "different" internet? The fact that the wireless infrastructure is in a nascent state is irrelevant. The only thing nascent about it is that it is generally slower than most wired connections and not as many people use it (as of now). Soon enough, it will be the preferred way to access the internet and to carve out different rules for it NOW is disingenuous and not in the consumers interest.
Greg Sciulli posted on 8/10/2010 11:59:41 AM
About what I expected from VZ -- you guys have never given up on the walled garden, and this is just a way to bring it back and use the regs to codify it. Have to say I expected better from Google, though. Anyway, I'm sure you anticipated what the response to your proposal would be from the save the internet types, so I'm not sure what your game is on this yet. Maybe you just figure the avg. consumer won't realize what you are trying to pull and it'll just blow over, or that your lobbying clout will win the day. But I suspect that people aren't going to be so easily fooled. It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out.
M. L. Hunt posted on 8/10/2010 12:05:49 PM
This is not the end of the world. I think it's an excellent 1st step. This is not a final "this is how it's gonna be" draft. It's just the preliminary draft so they don't waste their time just to have the government say "No". Yes it needs much more development but it's something different which is what is needed with the modern internet. Google is not an evil company and not out to fill their pocket (most of their services are free). Their response to the courts decision that the FCC can't regulate broadband on the current internet is a logical direction. If the current internet is broken and no one has the authority to fix it then make a new one that can be regulated and ensured remains neutral. Not to mention that this new internet seems to be more for services that aren't even invented yet. Regardless the plan isn't saying it's going to get rid of the old internet so whatever if you want comcast to prioritize all your traffic stay in the slow lane...If the old system isn't going to change then no reason to squash innovation and ideas for a new, separate system. Like I said it's not the best possible "end all be all" idea and it has a lot farther to go in refinement, but at least it's an attempt to move forward instead of standing where we are blissfully ignorant putting the problem out of sight and out of mind.
Pwny posted on 8/10/2010 3:01:33 PM
1. Nowhere is there an intent to "prioritize their own 'additional online services' content" over other Internet traffic. To the contrary, the second item says "Wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition." The prioritization mentioned applies to additional services only in relationship to each other, independent from standard Internet traffic. 2. I did not know Verizon could "demand" that one be a customer. I don't know of a place they are where there is not competition for each service they offer, as opposed to cable companies. 3. There is also nowhere in the proposal the suggestion that additional services would be paid for by anyone but those who use them.
Donald_cny posted on 8/10/2010 4:32:52 PM
many, many more negative comments on the google blog post at http://bit.ly/cijaGe
george_lol posted on 8/11/2010 12:34:33 AM
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