Much Ado About Nothing – Google & Verizon’s Network Neutrality Proposal

I’ve been closely following the Network Neutrality debate for years, and while I am pleased that Google and Verizon have brought the discussion to the forefront in recent days, there has been too much outrage in my humble opinion. Certain facts remain after careful analysis of the joint policy proposal.

Fact 1 – it’s a proposal, not a bill actually winding its way through congress.

Fact 2 – it’s a compromise, as Google admits in its recent post discussing the lack of wireless regulation:

MYTH: This proposal would eliminate network neutrality over wireless.

FACT: It’s true that Google previously has advocated for certain openness safeguards to be applied in a similar fashion to what would be applied to wireline services. However, in the spirit of compromise, we have agreed to a proposal that allows this market to remain free from regulation for now, while Congress keeps a watchful eye.

Why? First, the wireless market is more competitive than the wireline market, given that consumers typically have more than just two providers to choose from. Second, because wireless networks employ airwaves, rather than wires, and share constrained capacity among many users, these carriers need to manage their networks more actively. Third, network and device openness is now beginning to take off as a significant business model in this space.

In our proposal, we agreed that the best first step is for wireless providers to be fully transparent with users about how network traffic is managed to avoid congestion, or prioritized for certain applications and content. Our proposal also asks the Federal government to monitor and report regularly on the state of the wireless broadband market. Importantly, Congress would always have the ability to step in and impose new safeguards on wireless broadband providers to protect consumers’ interests.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the future of wireless broadband increasingly will be found in the advanced, 4th generation (4G) networks now being constructed. Verizon will begin rolling out its 4G network this fall under openness license conditions that Google helped persuade the FCC to adopt. Clearwire is already providing 4G service in some markets, operating under a unique wholesale/openness business model. So consumers across the country are beginning to experience open Internet wireless platforms, which we hope will be enhanced and encouraged by our transparency proposal.

Fact 3 – It was announced shortly after the FCC announced that its closed door meetings with stakeholders had ended, which likely means this proposal is one which had been floated, and rejected, in these closed door meetings.

Still, after much ado about nothing, for a careful analysis I can recommend this post by Nilay Patel.

Let’s see where this debate over this proposal leads us, hopefully to a real plan.

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