Google, Verizon outline net neutrality proposal

While much of the speculation surrounding Google and Verizon's discussions adjoining net neutrality appeared to significantly diminish the idea's central precepts, it now appears that the concept may not be dead after all.

The two companies announced Monday a framework from which the FCC and legislators can work from. Proponents of net neutrality appear to have scored a victory in that one of the seven key principles of the agreement appears to be that wireline internet traffic can not be prioritized. At the same time, there also appears to be several loopholes which may weaken the agreement overall.

As previously reported, the proposal does not include wireless internet access. It asks the Government Accountability Office to report annually to Congress on developments in the sector, and whether or not current policies are protecting consumers in the space.

A copy of the agreement has been posted in its entirety online.

"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," the two companies said in a joint statement. "It is imperative that we find ways to protect the future openness of the Internet and encourage the rapid deployment of broadband."

Google and Verizon agreed that the FCC should have jurisdiction over the regulation of broadband and a fining authority of up to $2 million USD, but only in cases of consumer protection and non-discrimination. The FCC would not have rulemaking power: it does appear the agreement stops short of giving the agency the power to fully enforce net neutrality.

It also protects lawful internet content from any type of discriminatory practice, including prioritization. Again, the agreement leaves a loophole open for interpretation: services like BitTorrent could be considered "unlawful," and it includes a provision allowing broadband access providers to engage in "reasonable network management."

The door was also left open for future technologies which may require priority on broadband access lines, but they should not threaten the availability of general broadband access itself. The FCC would be given power to monitor these services under the new rules.

"Our proposal would allow broadband providers to offer additional, differentiated online services, in addition to the Internet access and video services offered today," the companies said. "This means that broadband providers can work with other players to develop new services."

The agreement is the result of nearly a year of discussions on the subject, which appears to have been exclusive to the two companies. It is not clear whether any other technology companies or Internet service providers plan to sign on or support the agreement.

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