Four Lawmakers Oppose Google-Verizon Net Neutrality Deal

Four Democratic lawmakers have written a letter blasting the proposed compromise put forward last week by Google (GOOG) and Verizon (VZ) concerning "net neutrality," the concept that broadband providers should route all online traffic equally, without favoring any kind of traffic or discriminating against rivals.

In a letter to Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski, Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Jay Inslee (D-WA) called the Google-Verozon proposal -- which would apply net neutrality to fixed, wired networks, but not wireless broadband services -- unacceptable. The lawmakers urged the FCC to take action.

"In my Silicon Valley district, there are people building the next generation of internet breakthroughs. We cannot undermine their success by 'cable-izing' the Internet," Rep. Eshoo said in a statement. "That's why my colleagues and I remain steadfast in our commitment to net neutrality. The reactions to the legislative proposal from Google and Verizon demonstrate that it is not nearly strong enough to meet this standard."

Closed-Door FCC Talks Scuttled

The FCC recently convened closed-door talks between powerful broadband and Internet companies, hoping to deliver a compromise on that Congress would find palatable. But the process collapsed after Verizon and Google bailed out of the talks and agreed to forge their own proposal.

"Rather than expansion upon a proposal by two large communication companies with a vested financial interest in the outcome, formal FCC action is needed," the lawmakers wrote. "The public interest is served be a free and open Internet that continues to be an indispensable platform for innovation, investment, entrepreneurship and free speech."

The first two parts of the deal -- net neutrality for wired networks, no net neutrality for wireless networks -- are fairly straightforward. But it's the third aspect, the "managed services" provision, that has proved most confusing and controversial. In essence, Google and Verizon have proposed a separate network apart from the "public Internet," where nondiscrimination rules would not apply and where wealthy companies would be able to buy proprietary chunks of bandwidth and superfast connections.

"No private interest should be permitted to carve up the Internet to suit its own purposes," Markey said in a statement. "The open Internet has been an innovation engine that has helped power our economy, and fiber-optic fast lanes or tiers that slow down certain content would dim the future of the Internet to the detriment of consumers, competition, job creation and the free-flow of ideas."

FCC Lacks Authority Over Broadband

In April, a federal appeals court said the FCC lacked the power to enforce net neutrality, throwing the agency's ambitious National Broadband Plan into chaos.

Congress is bitterly divided over net neutrality. Telecom and cable lobbyists have a reliable group of powerful lawmakers they can call on to oppose net neutrality legislation. AT&T (T) and other major broadband interests have donated $400,000 to six Republican senators who have consistently rejected net neutrality.

But the four Democratic lawmakers strongly urged the FCC to pursue Genchowski's so-called "third way," which would reclassify broadband as a "communications service," thus regaining jurisdiction for the FCC over broadband.

"Americans online experience shouldn't be dictated by corporate CEO's," said Rep. Inslee.
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