Protesters to Google: Don't Be Evil on Net Neutrality


Search these terms: Google, Verizon (VZ), proposal, protesters.

That search will take you to Google's (GOOG) headquarters this afternoon, where protesters are expected to converge on the Internet giant's Silicon Valley campus to express their outrage over a joint Google-Verizon Communications proposal aimed at addressing the openness of the Internet, aka net neutrality.

Consumer groups, netizens, venture capitalists and Internet titans such as Facebook have expressed concern about the Google-Verizon proposal unveiled earlier this week. Their complaint is that'll create a system where some companies that are willing to pay will receive faster broadband speeds to deliver their content and services to consumers and/or allow a broadband provider to, in essence, block other Internet companies from accessing those consumers in a timely fashion, if at all.

These critics, who include Federal Communications commissioner, say companies would no longer have a level playing field in reaching consumers with their offerings at the fastest speed available through their carrier. And as a result, they say it would put young, innovative companies at a distinct disadvantage to businesses that have deeper pockets.

Another key concern is that the proposal calls for wireless services to operate in a less-regulated fashion than wired services, such as the heavily regulated phone industry. Critics of the proposal want wireless services to be treated like their wired cousin because the regulations mandate carriers have to provide equal treatment in the way they handle the transmission of information and data over their wires.

Striving for a Compromise

Google, going on the defensive, made a six-point rebuttal Thursday to dispel some of its detractors' claims, labeling them myths and inaccuracies.

The Internet giant noted that although it initially favored having wireless services treated like wired services, it changed its stance to achieve compromise in the joint proposal. Google noted that the wireless market is far more competitive, with consumers often having more than two choices for their wireless service, unlike their options when it comes to wired services like cable. And it points out that it's still asking the government to be involved with a "watchful eye."

As for the ability to offer specialized services, like secure banking or a special gaming channel outside the traditional Internet, Google notes that it's similar to paid services offered by some broadband providers already. The only difference in its proposal is that such services would be delivered outside the Internet.

The FCC's Options

In the backdrop of all of this, the FCC is considering a retooling of the way it regulates broadband service, following an unfavorable court ruling recently that put its authority over this area into question. As a result, the FCC is considering three options:

  • Keep things the way they are now after the court ruling.

  • Change broadband's designation from an "information service" to a "telecommunications" service. The latter designation comes with more extensive regulations.

  • Take parts of the "telecommunications service" regulations and apply them to the "information service" designation.

Public comment on the FCC proposal is now closed, and the agency is reviewing the information. If the FCC staff recommends any changes to the status quo, it will be up to the commission to make a final decision. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, however, is actually hoping to punt the issue to Congress and have lawmakers create legislation that would take parts of the telecommunications services designation and apply them to the information services designation.

The Google-Verizon proposal aims to serve as a framework for legislators to chew on. If the FCC moves in one direction and lawmakers decides to take up the issue, a decision by Congress would trump any FCC action.