Verizon and Google announces joint policy proposal for an open Internet

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.

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