A New Deal on Net Neutrality from Google and Verizon

Google and Verizon unveiled a new proposal to manage Web traffic while preserving net neutrality, but it includes a measure that could enable some favoritism in the future. Just a few days ago, it looked like Google (GOOG) and Verizon Communications (VZ) would have to give up on a pact to determine how telecom and cable operators would deliver Internet content. Federal Communications Commission officials reportedly cried foul amid concerns that the agreement would favor higher-paying providers, thereby tilting the playing field and undermining the concept of net neutrality.

But now there's a new deal on the table, one that Google and Verizon hope other carriers and content suppliers, as well as the FCC, will accept. The two companies on Monday unveiled a seven-point joint proposal that pays homage to the concept of net neutrality, so long as folks don't look too far into the future.

The proposal essentially aims to do three things: maintain a level playing field for content providers to deliver information on equal footing with broadband-service providers and retain the FCC's authority to enforce this access; give the FCC more authority to prevent discrimination or favoritism on traffic priority when dealing with wired broadband Internet service providers; and -- by far the most controversial point -- allow carriers and content providers to develop new or additional online services that would allow broadband providers to favor some Internet traffic without facing the wrath of the FCC.

No Net Neutrality for New Services?

That third part of the proposal flies in the face of the concept of net neutrality, which favors creating a level playing field for content providers so that all pages load up at the same speed and that no pages are given a higher priority than others. It also could prove difficult to put into practice. In order to be eligible, a broadband provider would have to show that its service is additional and differentiated from the Internet access and video services offered today.

Here's a glimpse of the details regarding the controversial aspect of the proposal:
A provider that offers a broadband Internet access service complying with the above principles could offer any other additional or differentiated services. Such other services would have to be distinguishable in scope and purpose from broadband Internet access service, but could make use of or access Internet content, applications or services and could include traffic prioritization. The FCC would publish an annual report on the effect of these additional services, and immediately report if it finds at any time that these services threaten the meaningful availability of broadband Internet access services or have been devised or promoted in a manner designed to evade these consumer protections.
What might some of these "additional or differentiated" services look like? In a conference call with reporters, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg said they could take the shape of 3-D content hurtling across something other than the Internet. Verizon, for example, currently operates its fiber-optic FiOS TV and Internet service. And Google's YouTube is just one content supplier listed on FiOS TV.
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