The proposal is an effort to "find ways to protect the future openness of the Internet and encourage the rapid deployment of broadband," Davidson and Tauke wrote.
Public Knowledge and Free Press, two digital rights groups pushing for formal Net neutrality rules at the FCC, ripped the proposal, saying it does not go far enough to protect an open Internet. "The agreement between Verizon and Google about how to manage Internet traffic is nothing more than a private agreement between two corporate behemoths, and should not be a template or basis for either congressional or FCC action," Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, said in a statement. "It is unenforceable, and does almost nothing to preserve an open Internet." The proposal would allow wireless broadband providers to lock any application, content, or service so long as they told consumers they were doing so," Sohn added.
Sohn and Free Press political adviser Joel Kelsey both complained that the agreement would allow broadband providers to offer managed services exempt from Net neutrality rules. "It is conceivable under the agreement that a network provider could devote 90 percent of its broadband capacity to these priority services and 10 percent to the best-efforts Internet," Sohn said. "If managed services are allowed to cannibalize the best-efforts Internet, whatever protections are agreed to for the latter become, for all intents and purposes, meaningless."
The agreement is "much worse" than a business arrangement between the two companies, as was rumored, Kelsey added. "Google and Verizon can try all they want to disguise this deal as a reasonable path forward, but the simple fact is this framework, if embraced by Congress and the Federal Communications Commission, would transform the free and open Internet into a closed platform like cable television," he said. "It's a 'signed, sealed, and delivered' policy framework that blesses the carving up of the Internet for the few deep-pocketed Internet companies and carriers."
Schmidt downplayed concerns that the proposal would allow broadband providers to move most of their investment to private managed services. "Verizon and others have a large financial incentive to make the public Internet more useful, simply because that's what their customers want," he said. "If they were to choose to degrade it, other competitors would enter the market."
Officials from Verizon and Google said the proposal is an effort to move forward on an often-contentious debate over Net neutrality in recent years. The two companies want to ensure the growth of the Internet, Seidenberg said. "This is a real step forward, in my view," Schmidt said. "If it's implemented broadly across the Internet, and we hope it will be, it could materially affect quality of service and openness for literally all the citizens of the United States."
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for the IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantusG. Grant's e-mail address is email@example.com.