US Net Neutrality Supporters Get New Ally – Democrats

The network neutrality debate has been getting very heated in the US. A Verizon-Google agreement drew heavy criticism from proponents of network neutrality. Now, it seems, that four Democrats from the US government is stepping in and disagreeing with the Google-Verizon pact.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

The network neutrality debate quieted down for a while, but it seems to be roaring back in to the headlines as of late in the US. That all changed when Verizon and Google announced an agreement that some say was a compromise between the two sides.

The press release starts off with this that sounds like it’s siding with proponents of network neutrality:

In providing broadband Internet access service, a provider

would be prohibited from engaging in undue discrimination against any lawful Internet content, application, or service in a manner that causes meaningful harm to competition or to users. Prioritization of Internet traffic would be presumed inconsistent with the non-discrimination standard, but the presumption could be rebutted.

Things then seemingly took a turn later on down in the press release that sided with those opposed to network neutrality:

Additional Online Services: 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.

It was a distinction between a public internet and additional online services that sparked huge criticism from proponents of network neutrality.

“The companies seem to want to divide the Internet yet further—not just between wired and wireless,” said John Bergmayer of Public Knowledge, “but between “the public Internet” and “additional online services.” Thus, “third party paid prioritization” is allowed—a particular online service might pay Verizon so that its services and content reach customers sooner. According to the proposal, these “additional online services” may “make use of or access Internet content, applications or services and could include traffic prioritization.” According to Ivan Seidenberg of Verizon, these can even include entertainment content—he gave examples including a local opera house paying so that its operas are given prioritization, and 3D video.”

Protesters also showed up at the Googleplex to voice their anger at the news that Google is caving.

A blogger from CNET responded to the news by calling some supporters of network neutrality “zealots” and offering the following opinion:

What Free Press and Public Knowledge don’t seem to realize is that AT&T and Verizon already offer differentiated services today with enhanced quality of service to business customers. Verizon’s Fios TV and AT&T’s U-verse TV services are also examples of managed Internet services that are delivered to consumers. And the last time I checked, no one, other than their cable competitors, has complained about AT&T and Verizon offering competition in the TV market.

The truth is that if Verizon and AT&T wanted to cannibalize their broadband business with premium broadband services, they’d already be doing it. But they aren’t, because there hasn’t been a market for it.

At the very least though, Comcast is trying to cannibalize their network and has been trying for years.

Things were starting to not look good for supporters of network neutrality, but a new development saw support for network neutrality supporters from high places – the US government. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) penned a joint letter expressing concern with what is happening between Google and Verizon.

The letter writes, “The recent proposal by Google and Verizon of an industry-centered net neutrality policy framework reinforces the need for resolution of the current open proceedings at the Commission to ensure the maintenance of an open Internet. Rather than expansion upon a proposal by two large communications companies with a vested financial interest in the outcome, formal FCC action is needed. The public interest is served by a free and open Internet that continues to be an indispensable platform for innovation, investment, entrepreneurship, and free speech.”

They said that the FCC should be guided by the following principles for broadband proceedings:

1. The FCC must have oversight authority for broadband access services.

2. Paid prioritization would close the open Internet.

3. Wired and wireless services should have a common regulatory framework and rules.

4. Broad “managed services” exceptions would swallow open Internet rules.

One thing is for sure, if the network neutrality debate in the US wasn’t interesting before, it sure is now.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: