FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps responded tersely to the joint net neutrality statement issued earlier today by Google and Verizon. Copps crafted a one paragraph statement that re-asserted FCC authority over telecommunications and emphasized consumer rights over corporate interests.
“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.”
Some of the ire expressed in this statement most likely stems from points five and six in the Google-Verizon proposal for an open internet. Though most the other points support the idea of an open Internet, point five allows for some wiggle room by the telecoms to introduce additional, differentiated online services without applying the rules of net neutrality. This is the language outlined in point five of Google and Verizons net neutrality public policy proposal:
“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.”
Under the proposal, Internet service providers would be free to establish partnerships with third parties to develop and offer innovative new services. In the eyes of Google and Verizon, the Internet would remain open as these new services would be treated separately from traditional broadband access.
The equally controversial point six provides an exception for wireless broadband, which according to Verizon and Google is far too young and changing much too fast for regulation by net neutrality principles. This is the language in the sixth point of the Google-Verizon net neutrality proposal:
“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.”
The GAO would be required to report annually on the state of the wireless Internet to Congress but the FCC and its net neutrality policies must keep their hands off the wireless airwaves until the current policies no longer protect consumers. Obviously, Google and Verizon see this point as a distant apex in the future while the FCC believes that now is the time for the government to assert its authority in this growing market.