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The Podium

Monday, August 09

Google & Verizon Announce an Agreement

By Bruce Mehlman

Forget all that speculation about data centers. It turns out, the secret negotiations between Google and Verizon were about finding common ground on net neutrality. From a post on Google’s Public Policy Blog:

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.

The net neutrality agreement — which, outside of “transparency,” would not apply to wireless services — takes steps to define the FCC’s regulatory powers, including the ability to levy a $2 million fine for bad actions. It also lets broadband providers strike deals for “differentiated online services.” In short, there could be a “public Internet” where all traffic is treated equally, and a “private” Internet where companies continue to pay for special services. Lastly, the agreement proposes reforming the Federal Universal Service Fun to deploy broadband.

The FCC is reportedly looking into the agreement. Given that it addresses two of the concerns the FCC has following its loss to Comcast in federal court — namely, its powers to safeguard broadband services for consumers and ability to move ahead with the National Broadband Plan — it will be interesting to see their reaction, along with the reaction from hardcore net neutrality advocacy groups and other stakeholders.

The full agreement is available here. And a more reader-friendly breakdown is up at the Google Public Policy Blog.