Google and Verizon Propose a Way Forward for Net Neutrality: Wireless Gouging Proceeds Unabated

by Matt Klassen on August 11, 2010

Well, it now looks like we know what the tech/telecom giants Google and Verizon were discussing behind closed doors over the past few weeks, as both companies have released a joint proposal for how Net Neutrality standards could [or maybe should] work in America.

The proposal, in essence, provides a way forward towards a more open and equal Internet, something that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has struggled to implement for the last three (3) years.

While I will admit that the content of the proposal surprises me, with Verizon agreeing to standards that will limit it’s control over its over broadband Internet service, I’m more surprised that the proposal completely ignores the wireless world, meaning that in a world where mobile wireless technology is developing faster than any other tech, any government regulations aimed at reducing corporate gouging are still several years away.

The proposal itself details a possible way forward for not only the FCC, who has seen any of its clout over regulating broadband telecommunications services virtually ripped from its grip from the Federal government, but for companies like Google that has long since championed the cause of Net Neutrality and companies like Verizon, who have long since opposed it.

Under the proposal Internet broadband companies would be restricted from arbitrarily blocking or regulating its Internet service and would be forced to treat all Internet traffic equally. While the proposal does leave room for companies like Verizon to offer “differentiated online” services [hear advanced or upgraded Internet features], the proposal would give the FCC regulatory power over what would become “public” Internet. What it doesn’t give, however, is any actual power to the FCC, as the Commission would not be allowed to create or change existing Internet telecommunications laws.

While many laud this accomplishment as a significant step forward in a standoff that has lasted longer than America’s attention span, what is disconcerting to me is what isn’t included in the proposal.

First, there is no discussion—at this point at least—as to what would constitute public Internet. If it’s anything like the public telephone service in the country; it’s certainly nothing to get excited about. Second, the fact that wireless broadband service is treated as a separate entity entirely, and beyond the purview of this proposal, is clearly the most disconcerting omission.

“We [Google and Verizon] both recognize that wireless broadband is different from the traditional wireline world, in part because the mobile marketplace is more competitive and changing rapidly,” a joint blog post from the two companies read.

Translation: There’s good money to be made with the evolving wireless service and while it would be in the best interests of the public to institute some regulations in the mobile world, any change in the modus operandi of the wireless world certainly wouldn’t be good for the wireless providers; companies that really enjoy stealing your money.

So while this proposal is a step forward towards Net Neutrality, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m not singing its praises. While I appreciate the effort from the corporate community, I’d much rather have laws made by an actual governmental body…I sleep better that way.

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