Advocates of Net neutrality were driven into a tizzy last week by rumors that Verizon and Google were devising an accord that would allow Internet providers to prioritize select data traffic on a pay-to-play basis. Today, the companies announced a "proposal for an open Internet" that, at first blush, appears to preserve and protect a level Internet playing field.
A closer look, however, suggests the companies' vision applies only to maintaining the neutrality of the wired Internet while keeping the door open to building toll roads on wireless broadband.
[ Also on InfoWorld.com: Read Paul Venezia's classic analysis of Lawrence Lessig's speech on U.S. telecoms vs. their European counterparts. | Robert X. Cringely weighs in on the Google/Verizon flirtation. ]
Google and Verizon's proposal, released on Google's public policy blog this afternoon, hits most of the right notes when it comes to Net neutrality, even calling for legislation that increases the FCC's power to impose neutrality on telecom providers. But tucked away at the bottom of their list of proposals is this paragraph:
We both recognize that wireless broadband is different from the traditional wireline world, in part because the mobile marketplace is more competitive and changing rapidly. In recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace, under this proposal we would not now apply most of the wireline principles to wireless, except for the transparency requirement.
Google and Verizon are well aware that wireless Internet connectivity is the future of networking and have been working to capitalize, what with Verizon's plethora of Android phones. Most wireless Internet plans already feature as a matter of course the usage caps that wireline providers never were able to consistently impose on customers. Excluding wireless from their proposal would keep open the opportunity for the Verizons, AT&Ts, and T-Mobiles of the world to continue with that practice.