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Saturday, 14 August 2010 11:26

A joint policy proposal for an open Internet

Monday, August 9, 2010 at 1:38 PM ET

Posted by Alan Davidson, Google director of public policy and Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president of public affairs, policy, and communications
The original architects of the Internet got the big things right. By making the network open, they enabled the greatest exchange of ideas in history. By making the Internet scalable, they enabled explosive innovation in the infrastructure.
It is imperative that we find ways to protect the future openness of the Internet and encourage the rapid deployment of broadband. Verizon and Google are pleased to discuss the principled compromise our companies have developed over the last year concerning the thorny issue of “network neutrality.”
In October, our two companies issued a shared statement of principles on network neutrality. A few months later we submitted a joint filing to the FCC, and in an April joint op-ed our CEOs discussed their common interest in an open Internet. Since that time, we have listened to all sides of the debate, engaged in good faith with policy makers in multiple venues, and challenged each other to craft a balanced policy framework. We have been guided by the two main goals:
1. Users should choose what content, applications, or devices they use, since openness has been central to the explosive innovation that has made the Internet a transformative medium.

2. America must continue to encourage both investment and innovation to support the underlying broadband infrastructure; it is imperative for our global competitiveness.

Today our CEOs will announce a proposal that we hope will make a constructive contribution to the dialogue. Our joint proposal takes the form of a suggested legislative framework for consideration by lawmakers, and is laid out here. Below we discuss the seven key elements:

First, both companies have long been proponents of the FCC’s current wireline broadband openness principles, which ensure that consumers have access to all legal content on the Internet, and can use what applications, services, and devices they choose. The enforceability of those principles was called into serious question by the recent Comcast court decision. Our proposal would now make those principles fully enforceable at the FCC.

Second, we agree that in addition to these existing principles there should be a new, enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices. This means that for the first time, wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition.

Importantly, this new nondiscrimination principle includes a presumption against prioritization of Internet traffic - including paid prioritization. So, in addition to not blocking or degrading of Internet content and applications, wireline broadband providers also could not favor particular Internet traffic over other traffic.

Third, it’s important that the consumer be fully informed about their Internet experiences. Our proposal would create enforceable transparency rules, for both wireline and wireless services. Broadband providers would be required to give consumers clear, understandable information about the services they offer and their capabilities. Broadband providers would also provide to application and content providers information about network management practices and any other information they need to ensure that they can reach consumers.

Fourth, because of the confusion about the FCC’s authority following the Comcast court decision, our proposal spells out the FCC’s role and authority in the broadband space. In addition to creating enforceable consumer protection and nondiscrimination standards that go beyond the FCC’s preexisting consumer safeguards, the proposal also provides for a new enforcement mechanism for the FCC to use. Specifically, the FCC would enforce these openness policies on a case-by-case basis, using a complaint-driven process. The FCC could move swiftly to stop a practice that violates these safeguards, and it could impose a penalty of up to $2 million on bad actors.

Fifth, we want the broadband infrastructure to be a platform for innovation. Therefore, our proposal would allow broadband providers to offer additional, differentiated online services, in addition to the Internet access and video services (such as Verizon's FIOS TV) offered today. This means that broadband providers can work with other players to develop new services. It is too soon to predict how these new services will develop, but examples might include health care monitoring, the smart grid, advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options. Our proposal also includes safeguards to ensure that such online services must be distinguishable from traditional broadband Internet access services and are not designed to circumvent the rules. The FCC would also monitor the development of these services to make sure they don’t interfere with the continued development of Internet access services.

Sixth, 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. In addition, the Government Accountability Office would be required to report to Congress annually on developments in the wireless broadband marketplace, and whether or not current policies are working to protect consumers.

Seventh, and finally, we strongly believe that it is in the national interest for all Americans to have broadband access to the Internet. Therefore, we support reform of the Federal Universal Service Fund, so that it is focused on deploying broadband in areas where it is not now available.

We believe this policy framework properly empowers consumers and gives the FCC a role carefully tailored for the new world of broadband, while also allowing broadband providers the flexibility to manage their networks and provide new types of online services.

Ultimately, we think this proposal provides the certainty that allows both web startups to bring their novel ideas to users, and broadband providers to invest in their networks.

Crafting a compromise proposal has not been an easy process, and we have certainly had our differences along the way. But what has kept us moving forward is our mutual interest in a healthy and growing Internet that can continue to be a laboratory for innovation. As policy makers continue to formulate the rules of the road, we hope that other stakeholders will join with us in providing constructive ideas for an open Internet policy that puts consumers in charge and enhances America’s leadership in the broadband world. We stand ready to work with the Congress, the FCC and all interested parties to do just that.

Verizon-Google Legislative Framework Proposal

(1) sending and receiving lawful content of their choice;

(2) running lawful applications and using lawful services of their choice; and

Google and Verizon have been working together to find ways to preserve the open Internet and
the vibrant and innovative markets it supports, to protect consumers, and to promote continued
investment in broadband access. With these goals in mind, together we offer a proposed open
Internet framework for the consideration of policymakers and the public.

We believe such a framework should include the following key elements:

Consumer Protections: A broadband Internet access service provider would be prohibited from
preventing users of its broadband Internet access service from--

(3) connecting their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network or
service, facilitate theft of service, or harm other users of the service.

Non-Discrimination Requirement: 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.

Transparency: Providers of broadband Internet access service would be required to disclose
accurate and relevant information in plain language about the characteristics and capabilities of
their offerings, their broadband network management, and other practices necessary for
consumers and other users to make informed choices.

Network Management: Broadband Internet access service providers are permitted to engage in
reasonable network management. Reasonable network management includes any technically
sound practice: to reduce or mitigate the effects of congestion on its network; to ensure network
security or integrity; to address traffic that is unwanted by or harmful to users, the provider’s
network, or the Internet; to ensure service quality to a subscriber; to provide services or
capabilities consistent with a consumer’s choices; that is consistent with the technical
requirements, standards, or best practices adopted by an independent, widely-recognized Internet
community governance initiative or standard-setting organization; to prioritize general classes or
types of Internet traffic, based on latency; or otherwise to manage the daily operation of its

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.

Wireless Broadband: Because of the unique technical and operational characteristics of
wireless networks, and the competitive and still-developing nature of wireless broadband
services, only the transparency principle would apply to wireless broadband at this time. The
U.S. Government Accountability Office would report to Congress annually on the continued
development and robustness of wireless broadband Internet access services.

Case-By-Case Enforcement: The FCC would enforce the consumer protection and
nondiscrimination requirements through case-by-case adjudication, but would have no
rulemaking authority with respect to those provisions. Parties would be encouraged to use non-
governmental dispute resolution processes established by independent, widely-recognized
Internet community governance initiatives, and the FCC would be directed to give appropriate
deference to decisions or advisory opinions of such groups. The FCC could grant injunctive
relief for violations of the consumer protection and non-discrimination provisions. The FCC
could impose a forfeiture of up to $2,000,000 for knowing violations of the consumer-protection
or non-discrimination provisions. The proposed framework would not affect rights or
obligations under existing Federal or State laws that generally apply to businesses, and would not
create any new private right of action.

Regulatory Authority: The FCC would have exclusive authority to oversee broadband Internet
access service, but would not have any authority over Internet software applications, content or
services. Regulatory authorities would not be permitted to regulate broadband Internet access

Broadband Access for Americans: Broadband Internet access would be eligible for Federal
universal service fund support to spur deployment in unserved areas and to support programs to
encourage broadband adoption by low-income populations. In addition, the FCC would be
required to complete intercarrier compensation reform within 12 months. Broadband Internet
access service and traffic or services using Internet protocol would be considered exclusively
interstate in nature. In general, broadband Internet access service providers would ensure that
the service is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.