Google, Verizon Stump For Net Neutrality

The pair of tech powerhouses on Monday outlined their network neutrality plan that would give the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the power to enforce, but not create, net neutrality rules and levy fines as high as $2 million for broadband providers who break them.

Google and Verizon tackled what the two companies called the "thorny issue" of net neutrality Monday in a joint announcement that comes on the heels of rumors that the two companies had a wink-wink agreement pending through which Verizon would prioritize Google traffic on its network.

In the Monday announcement, posted on Google's public policy blog by Alan Davidson, Google director of public policy, and Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president of public affairs, policy, and communications, Google and Verizon said the goal of their pairing is two-fold: "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. [And] 2. America must continue to encourage both investment and innovation to support the underlying broadband infrastructure; it is imperative for our global competitiveness."

To fulfill those two tenants, Google and Verizon issued a joint proposal that "takes the form of a suggested legislative framework for consideration by lawmakers."

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The proposed framework would prohibit Internet service providers from preventing customers from accessing lawful content of their choice, running lawful applications and services of their choice and connecting their choice of legal devices. At the same time, providers would not be allowed to engage in undue discrimination against any lawful Internet content, application or service in a manner that causes "meaningful harm" to competitors or to users, and that "prioritization of Internet traffic would be presumed inconsistent with non-discrimination standard, but the presumption could be rebutted."

Google and Verizon also requested that Internet providers disclose accurate and relevant information about the characteristics and capabilities of their offerings and disclose practices necessary for consumers to choose a provider. At the same time, providers should be able to "engage in reasonable network management" to reduce network congestion, ensure networks security and integrity, and address unwanted traffic and service quality issues including. Providers can also be allowed "to prioritize general classes or types of Internet traffic, based on latency; or otherwise to manage the daily operation of its network."

Google and Verizon said that if broadband providers comply with the principals, they can offer additional and differentiating services apart from Internet access that leverage content, applications and other services and could include traffic prioritization.

And for Internet providers that fail to comply, the FCC could enforce the requirements on a case by case basis, but not have the authority to make the rules. The FCC would have authority over broadband Internet access, but not over software applications, content or services.

"The FCC could grant injunctive relief for violations of the consumer protection and non-discrimination provisions," Google and Verizon wrote. "The FCC could impose a forfeiture of up to $2,000,000 for knowing violations of the consumer-protection or non-discrimination provisions.

"The original architects of the Internet got the big things right," Davidson and Tauke wrote. "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."