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Google, Verizon Propose Net Neutrality Without Wireless

A legislative framework backed by the two companies draws fire for exempting wireless networks from suggested rules and for steering investment toward closed alternatives.

Longtime antagonists Google and Verizon have come together to propose a new set of rules for how Internet traffic can be lawfully managed.

In a joint statement published on the Web sites of both companies, Alan Davidson, director of public policy at Google, and Tom Tauke, Verizon's EVP of public affairs, policy, and communications, declared their support for non-discriminatory treatment of wireline broadband Internet traffic.

"[T]his new nondiscrimination principle includes a presumption against prioritization of Internet traffic -- including paid prioritization," wrote Davidson and Tauke in a blog post. "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."

Google and Verizon hope legislators will use their framework as a guide to clarify the powers and responsibilities of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC's regulatory power has come into question following a court decision that found the FCC lacked the authority to impose network neutrality rules on Comcast.

But the proposed rules have critics crying foul because they do not cover wireless networks and they would remove the FCC's few remaining teeth by mandating enforcement on a case-by-case basis.

"We welcome all efforts to promote openness on the wireline Internet, but believe that any satisfactory agreement must also include protection for wireless Internet users to access Web sites and applications of their choice," said Markham Erickson, executive director of the Open Internet Coalition -- which counts Google as a member -- in an e-mailed statement.

Free Press, a national media reform group, denounced the proposal as a way to transform the free, open Internet into a closed platform like cable television.

"If codified, this arrangement will lead to toll booths on the information superhighway," said Free Press Political Adviser Joel Kelsey in a statement. "It will lead to outright blocking of applications and content on increasingly popular wireless platforms."

The SavetheInternet.com Coalition -- a group that includes MoveOn.Org Civic Action, Credo Action, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, ColorofChange.org, and Free Press -- predicts that the rules will curtail investment in the open Internet by promoting investment in new services not governed by these rules -- what some are calling "private Internets" -- that allow discriminatory pricing.

In a conference call for the media on Monday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt scoffed at this idea, insisting that Google likes the public Internet. And he dismissed reports suggesting that Google and Verizon had entered into a business relationship to ensure priority delivery of Google network traffic.

A spokesperson for the FCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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