Google, Verizon come to terms on net neutrality

After a week of speculation, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) have hammered out what they call a "compromise proposal" on net neutrality that bans any prioritization of Internet traffic over wireline networks, while wireless networks would be left untouched.

This latest joint proposal is an apparent attempt by the two service providers to set the record straight about news reports that emerged last week that Verizon and Google crafted a behind the scenes net neutrality agreement. In a conference call yesterday, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg and Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that their agreement is not a business partnership but rather a "public policy framework" that other service providers and public interest groups could follow.

"Our basic goal is to set aside the very divisive debate that everyone is engaging in and instead recognize that we are extremely dependent upon each other," said Google's CEO Eric Schmidt in the conference call.

As reported in FierceWireless, the joint Google/Verizon proposal defines seven key tenets, including one that says "wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition." The proposal also lays out "transparency rules" for both wireline and wireless services. Under these transparency rules, broadband service providers would have to provide customers "clear, understandable information about the services they offer and their capabilities." By using a complaint-driven process, the FCC would enforce the policies on a case-by-case basis. Any carrier that violates these rules would be subject to a $2 million fine.  

This latest development, which comes from two service providers that have had opposing views on net neutrality, is set on creating a net neutrality blueprint the industry could follow. "There has been so much discussion and so much interest in this topic," Seidenberg said. "We feel that this debate has been somewhat hijacked by a lot of discussion and issues that are not really reflective of what the company is doing."

Of course, opposition from consumer groups are already speaking out against the new proposal.

Consumer Watchdog issued a release saying that the Verizon/Google proposal "pays lip service to the idea of 'net neutrality,' and undermines the open and free Internet consumers enjoy.

Interestingly, the emergence of the Verizon/Google proposal comes only a week after the FCC decided to end its behind closed door net neutrality talks after failing to reach consensus on various issues.  

Although Schmidt said Google and Verizon said they presented their proposal to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, FCC spokeswoman Jen Howard would not comment on it.

For more:
- here's the joint Google/Verizon plan
- Bloomberg has this story

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