As expected, online giants Google and Verizon issued a joint proposal on net neutrality that completely bypasses recent proposals by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Under terms of the proposed deal, most traditional internet traffic will be treated equally, as the FCC and net neutrality proponents wish. But Internet traffic from cellular and upcoming broadband networks would be exempted, allowing Google to pay for preferential treatment on Verizon's networks. It's exactly the nightmare scenario net neutrality proponents feared.
Naturally, that's not how Google and Verizon are presenting their "vision."
"We've been working with Verizon to find common ground on the issue of net neutrality for nearly a year," Google Blog Editor Karen Wickre noted in a post. "We hope today's proposal, a suggested legislative framework for consideration by lawmakers, helps to advance the debate over open Internet rules in Washington. We also believe that it is best for users and for the web."
The proposed deal would prevent content producers from paying broadband Internet providers for a special "fast lane" that would give them a better connection with their users, creating a two-tiered Internet of have's and have-not's. But it does splice up the Internet in exactly this fashion for cellular data networks—which will most likely be the most common Internet access worldwide in the future—and for upcoming broadband network services for "health care, ... advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options."
Critics say those last two exceptions are, in effect, loopholes that will allow Google and other deep-pocketed companies to get preferential treatment with the most lucrative internet-based services of the future.
Google and Verizon say the exceptions are necessary because the growth of cellular internet could be slowed otherwise. And those new broadband services would "have to be distinguishable from traditional broadband Internet access services and are not designed to circumvent the rules." Furthermore, Google says it has no plans to develop those kinds of services. (Google does make the world's most popular smartphone system, Android.)
The FCC has already spoken out against this proposal.
"Some will claim this announcement moves the discussion forward," FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps said. "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."
In a previous statement, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, "Any deal that doesn't preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet for consumers and entrepreneurs will be unacceptable."