The debate over the National Broadband Plan is beginning to look like a giant rugby scrum as reaction to the Google-Verizon pact on net neutrality widens. Google competitor Facebook has jumped into the fray, criticizing the deal.
Meanwhile, FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps has said the Google-Verizon announcement underscores the need to move the decision-making process on broadband forward.
"Some will claim this (Google-Verizon) announcement moves the discussion forward," said Copps, a Democrat, in a statement. "That's one of its many problems. It is time to move a decision forward -- a decision to reassert FCC authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open Internet now and forever, and to put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations."
Facebook weighed in on the debate, criticizing the Google-Verizon pact, which would weaken the FCC's regulatory powers over landline Internet access.
"Facebook continues to support principles of net neutrality for both landline and wireless networks," said Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman, in a statement. "Preserving an open Internet that is accessible to innovators -- regardless of their size or wealth -- will promote a vibrant and competitive marketplace where consumers have ultimate control over the content and services delivered through their Internet connections."
Google and Verizon have moved closer together in recent month as Verizon Wireless has begun to offer mobile phones based on Google's Android platform. In combination, the two firms offer the most competition to Apple's iPhone, which is marketed exclusively in the US by AT&T.
Net neutrality is largely about regulation -- whether and how to regulate the Internet. The carriers are resisting regulation while public interest groups want the FCC to be able to exercise regulatory powers to keep the Internet open. Carriers maintain that they have done a good job of bringing the web to consumers, but the FCC, led by chairman Julius Genachowski, points out that the U.S. is increasingly falling behind other industrialized nations in Internet access and more forceful government involvement is needed to improve Web access, particularly for underserved Americans.
Genachowski said the FCC this week is launching a process to develop a new report with "broad public input" to improve Internet access. After word leaked out that the FCC was working privately on broadband policy with Google and Verizon as well as with other interests, the FCC said it would forego such private talks in favor of public input in the future.