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Net Neutrality is a contentious political issue (click to enlarge) -- Google and Verizon think they have the answer.  (Source: Player Versus Player)

The proposal calls for taxpayer funding to help finance bringing broadband to rural areas of America where such service is current cost-prohibitive.  (Source: T&E Cable)
Pair air long awaited net neutrality proposal, leave much unanswered and ambiguous

As the American east was colonized and went from a frontier into a built-up economic giant, laws in the "New World" became increasingly regimented and defined.  Today, a similar scenario is playing out in the world of wired broadband internet.  The service has matured into a cornerstone of the modern economy, but only now is legislation catching up.

At stake is whether internet service providers should be allowed to charge websites/web content creators fees to determine traffic speed by offering faster connections.  Also at stake is whether ISPs should be allowed to purposefully slow traffic down.

Verizon and Google today rolled out a proposal that offers a prospective answer to those questions.  The proposal, which had been rumored since last week, is only two pages long and can be found here.

It calls for the legislation enforcing the premise of "net neutrality" -- banning the deliberate slowing down or speeding up traffic on wired connections.  Under the Google/Verizon plan, the Federal Communications Commission would gain the authority to punish offenders, fining them up to $2M USD for intentional violations (while a bit ambiguous, it sounds like these fines could be 
per occurrence, which would be bad news for throttlers like Comcast).

The proposal also redefines the frontier -- offering exemptions for wireless and new online services such as internet-connected television.  It makes it clear that strict rules must be in place to ensure that companies can't create creative renamings of traditional broadband offerings to try to skirt net neutrality rules.

This approach makes sense to an extent, but there's substantial ambiguity here.  The definition of legitimate "new" online services, versus illegitimate rebrandings is not clearly outlined.  Furthermore, there is some risk to this approach -- if wireless traffic is temporarily exempted from net neutrality as it develops, there's the risk that it will become a 
permanent exemption.

Also of interest, the proposal seeks to mandate that ISPs offer clearer information on their real-world connection stats to subscribers.  It also calls on the U.S. Government Accountability Office to publish yearly reports monitoring the state of broadband internet across the country.

The proposal also supports financing the Universal Service Fund (USF), a mechanism included in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which looks to expand telecommunication service to expensive groups -- such as individuals with disabilities, or individuals in rural areas.  Specifically, the proposal calls on the USF being used to deploy broadband to the remaining parts of America that it does not currently reach.

A remaining significant aspect of the proposal is its repeated use of the word "legal" with regard to traffic and content.  The intent is clear -- Verizon and Google are leaving room to discriminate against pirated traffic.  However, the bar would be raised somewhat in the sense that the onus would be on ISPs to prove that traffic was indeed illegal. 

The upside to filesharers is that many ISPs may opt simply not to regulate traffic.  However, the downside is that if they 
do opt to regulate traffic, they could in effect be removing the financial burden of tracking piracy from copyright watchdogs and taking it on themselves, fulfilling the long time goal of groups like the RIAA to either get ISPs or the government to pay for such tracking.

It's worth noting that there's still substantially ambiguity in virtually 
all of the proposal's suggestions, though, which may have helped Verizon and Google -- two companies with notably different past opinions on net neutrality -- reach common ground.

The proposal comes as the FCC crafts net neutrality legislation to present to Congress.  Along with its plan for national broadband, the new legislation will look to reshape the face of internet in America.  The trickiest part will be whether the FCC can put this somewhat vague two page proposal into a more comprehensive measure that will likely span 100 pages or more and lay out explicit rules.

Will Verizon and Google continue to agree when that kind of proposal hits?  And will other players like AT&T and Microsoft sit quietly by while Verizon and Google's attempts to steer the nation's internet policy?  Those are two critical questions, the answers to which remain to be seen.



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jlk
By IamJedi on 8/9/2010 5:40:36 PM , Rating: 3
Even if the document is vague right now, I think that it is laying down the groundwork to much better, more-cohesive document to come. What I want to know is how Verizon and Google are making this document with the FCC on behalf of all other I.S.Ps. out there. It clearly seems that this just isn't a document for Google, Verizon, and the FCC to follow, but indeed all other gatekeepers, too. Am I to guess that the FCC just asked for their participation in creating this document?

At any rate, I think that this is a far-cry from what people thought this document was going to be a few days ago. It seems that every time something happens, Freepress.net/SaveTheInternet likes to jump on the "OH F*CK" bandwagon, and make everyone get all crazy,even when it seems they don't even have all the facts themselves.

I was pretty doubtful that Google was turning its back on N.N., as a lot of its applications rely on an open Internet. I must admit that my fate was shaken up a bit that day, when I heard the last giant to stand against the I.S.Ps. may have been throwing in the towel, though.




RE: jlk
By Reclaimer77 on 8/9/2010 6:41:23 PM , Rating: 4
We've had de-facto Net Neutrality since day one of the Internet though. Only recently has traffic shaping become a limited practice, and only then it's been done by Comcast. And they got a LOT of negative press for it. Without any rules or government laws, the ISP's have given us the closest thing to a censorship free zone in the history of mankind. Suddenly, after decades of the Internet's arrival, the ISP's are the bad guy's?

I'm not buying that. I think we should be FAR more scared and concerned that the FCC, who's job is to censor and ban and limit expression, is getting this involved in the day-to-day operation of the Internet and the ISP's.

I mean, do you actually believe something "more open" than we have now is going to be spawned from government regulation and more oversight? When, in the history of our country, has that ever happened?


RE: jlk
By RaisedinUS on 8/9/2010 7:42:22 PM , Rating: 2
Hello, I'm from the government and I am here to help.


RE: jlk
By ssjwes1980 on 8/9/2010 8:21:44 PM , Rating: 2
Ronald told me thats a lie


RE: jlk
By Lerianis on 8/9/2010 11:22:33 PM , Rating: 1
Quite a bit, actually. The fact is that happen with the roads, with the phones, with the TV, etc.


RE: jlk
By Reclaimer77 on 8/10/2010 2:08:27 AM , Rating: 2
I love how every time that argument is made, one of you bring up basic services. Hello? Those are something the government is SUPPOSED to provide. Huge difference.


RE: jlk
By Fritzr on 8/10/2010 2:50:33 AM , Rating: 1
The government is not required to provide roads, phone or TV. The government involvement in each was a decision made by Congress to take over (in the case of roads) or to mandate how it would be run (phone & TV).

Internet has now reached the point of being a critical infrastructure item that is necessary for the security of the country. I'm surprised it hasn't already been nationalized for the public good.


RE: jlk
By Solandri on 8/10/2010 7:24:17 AM , Rating: 3
The government is required for roads, phones, TV because the infrastructure realistically needs to pass through easements on private property (roads, landline phone, cable TV) or be transmitted on public airwave spectra (cell phones, broadcast TV).

Internet is the same thing. The data needs to be transmitted over lines going through easements (public utility poles or underground conduits), or over public spectra. The only Internet you could argue is free of government involvement is wireless Internet providers transmitting in the 2.4 and 5.8 GHz bands. The FCC declared those frequencies free for all use as long as you do not exceed certain broadcast power thresholds. All other Internet already has the government involved - no need for it to somehow be classified as a "critical infrastructure".


RE: jlk
By Reclaimer77 on 8/10/2010 4:50:13 PM , Rating: 2
Yes but that's not good enough. They don't want involvement, they want CONTROL. At this point there isn't even a point in arguing that, they have made their intentions clear.


RE: jlk
By Ammohunt on 8/10/2010 2:39:10 PM , Rating: 2
Don't be silly the "fairness" doctrine will apply to the internets as well.


RE: jlk
By tmouse on 8/11/2010 8:15:18 AM , Rating: 2
The FCC repealed the "fairness" doctrine in 1987


RE: jlk
By Ammohunt on 8/11/2010 11:03:53 AM , Rating: 2
Um yeah i know talk recently since the Leftists have been in power to put it back into place where have you been?


RE: jlk
By tmouse on 8/12/2010 8:13:09 AM , Rating: 2
Talk is cheap; I doubt it will be reinstated. In its essence it makes it harder for spin doctors to spread their FUD so given the current public consensus on politics in general and the current administrations use of spin I doubt they will try. Even if congress votes to make it a law (it was just a rule before) and they can get the administration to sign off on it the current FCC still seems to be fundamentally against enforcing it, so a law that is not enforced is essentially not a law.


RE: jlk
By chris00 on 8/10/2010 5:22:36 AM , Rating: 2
What I find a bit disturbing about all this is why should Google and Verizon be making these decisions anyway? They are completely unelected, unrepresentative, private corporations with their own interests at stake. The internet has become a fundamental service for everyone and as such it should be we, the people, who are deciding how it is to be run, not some power-weilding corporation.

We all know that should something like this be put to the public vote so-to-speak, then net-neutrality would win out hands down. The corporations of this world have become too powerful and it's time that the people's representatives (the government) got some teeth and start to lay down the law for the benefit of all people, not just the rich.


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