Note: This report originally appeared on the media blog Lippmann Would Roll.
With the release of a policy proposal on Monday, Google and Verizon confirmed speculation and early reports by The New York Times and Bloomberg that the two companies had come to an agreement on a proposal regarding how to move forward with online traffic management. The announcement has some consumer advocacy organizations declaring that the agreement was "worse than expected." Wired magazine is calling the proposal a "two-tiered" Internet.
"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," Google argued today on its policy blog.
Despite Google and Verizon’s claims to support an open Internet, the two page policy proposal removes any hope of moving forward with the open Internet as we know it. Specifically, five sentences would offer corporations the ability to do almost anything they would like. Anything ranges from throttling traffic to blocking websites to prioritizing some content over other content.
Here are five sentences from the Google/Verizon proposal that could change the Net forever and what they really mean:
1. "Prioritization of Internet traffic would be presumed inconsistent with the non-discrimination standard, but the presumption could be rebutted."
Interpretation: Favoring some traffic over other traffic is not okay, but an ISP could do it anyway if they have a good argument for it.
2. "Broadband Internet access service providers are permitted to engage in reasonable network management… (and) to prioritize general classes or types of Internet traffic."
Interpretation: ISPs can throttle/prioritize traffic in whatever way they feel is necessary for the sake of the network.
3. "Because of the unique technical and operational characteristics of wireless networks, and the competitive and still-developing nature of wireless broadband services, only the transparency principle would apply to wireless broadband at this time."
Interpretation: Since wireless Internet is "different" from wired Internet net neutrality is not applicable to wireless Internet.
4. "The FCC would enforce the consumer protection and nondiscrimination requirements through case-by-case adjudication, but would have no rulemaking authority with respect to those provisions."
Interpretation: The FCC has no authority to make rules to keep the Internet a level playing field for everyone.
5. "The FCC would have exclusive authority to oversee broadband Internet access service, but would not have any authority over Internet software applications, content or services."
Interpretation: The FCC has no power to regulate ISPs at any level, but it can "oversee" ISPs.
The announcement of the proposal has left both the FCC and Democratic lawmakers less than happy. Indeed, some lawmakers like Representative Ed Markey [D-MA] said today that corporations have no place in deciding public policy.
"Rather than a proposal from two corporate giants, a public process at the FCC is needed to ensure the preservation of an unfettered Internet ecosystem that will continue to be an indispensable platform for innovation, investment, entrepreneurship, and free speech," Marky said.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps also highlighted the need for the FCC to move forward in crafting legislation, saying in a statement that "some will claim this announcement moves the discussion forward. That’s one of its many problems. It is time to move a decision forward—a decision to reassert FCC authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open Internet now and forever, and to put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations."