Google and Verizon propose road rules

The companies push for Net neutrality. Unless, of course, they happen to own the network.

By Kim Peterson Aug 9, 2010 3:05PM
Crystal ball © Thinkstock/JupiterimagesAfter all the excitement last week about Google (GOOG) and Verizon (VZ) supposedly corrupting the Internet with a nefarious money-making plan, the two companies have issued a statement that doesn't say much.

Together, they have come up with a legislative framework proposal for lawmakers to consider. And it's all very open, saying that Internet providers shouldn't discriminate and must let users access whatever they want online, so long as it's legal.

But there's a big exception laid out for wireless companies. Not that surprising, considering Verizon is the biggest wireless player in the country.

Verizon wants wireless Internet to be left out of all principles being discussed except for one: Wireless providers should be required to disclose information about their networks and offerings.

So what does it all mean? Well, the two companies say they're not going to mess with the basic Internet as we know it. For that Internet, they don't think any companies should pay for faster access or special treatment. There is no business arrangement between the two companies, they said.

But anything beyond the existing Internet is wide open. And that's where things got a bit cryptic, with talk of the regular, public Internet, and other, future Internets where things can get crazy.

What the companies seem to be saying, at least from their conference call with the media Monday, is that they want the freedom to be able to charge for prioritization on a new Internet service.

And what would be beyond the existing Internet, exactly? Make what you will of this response from Verizon chief executive Ivan Seidenberg: "We're not saying there's an alternative Internet or that we'll build it. But if someday someone builds it, we'd like to be able to use it." (Hat tip to MediaMemo for transcribing).

Okaaaaaayy. Sure. He tried to clear it up with an example. If the Metropolitan Opera wants to do a 3-D broadcast, it might not want to use the public Internet for that. (Yeah, because there's so much demand for opera in 3-D!)

But there seems to be a general consensus that Verizon's FiOs network qualifies as a non-public, beyond-the-Internet service that could charge for special treatment.

So the way I read it is this: Verizon and Google won't mess with the Internet as offered by providers like Comcast (CMCSA) and Cox, for example. But they want more freedom with wireless Internet networks like FiOs, giving preference to the companies that pay for faster delivery to customers.

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