Google and Verizon today called on legislators to enact laws barring carriers from blocking, slowing down or selectively delaying Internet traffic flowing through their broadband lines.
The two companies also suggested that regulators should have authority to stop offenders by imposing fines of $2 million for those who fail to meet the standard.
Their hope is to create a policy framework that can guide Congress and the Federal Communications Commission when they begin to draft their so-called “network neutrality” rules — regulations meant to ensure that phone and cable providers cannot favor or discriminate against Internet calls, online video and other Web services.
Although Google and Verizon are at opposite ends in the increasingly bitter debate, the two companies have been in discussions for months to try to negotiate a common ground.
“We recognize we’re extremely dependent on each other,” said Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive. “This is the next step in making this debate more clearer.”
“We have one of the most vibrant industries going, and we want to make sure we don’t want to go backwards,” added Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon’s chief executive.
The companies believe Internet providers should be able to redirect bandwidth through private networks exclusive of the public Internet, which they say, could be used for a number of special applications, such as medical monitoring, academic enrichment or entertainment.
But public interest groups have expressed concern that this private access could ultimately lead to a far worse discrepancy on the Internet, allowing websites with a bigger budget to separate from the public Internet completely. In addition, wireless networks are noticeably omitted from this plan which means a growing segment of the Internet would remain unregulated.
Although few believe the FCC will entertain this proposal due to its narrow scope, the discussion between Internet providers and Web businesses had stagnated recently and this represents a new perspective for regulators to consider.
Regardless, Verizon asserts that it should have the say in how its own network capacity is applied. Schmidt emphasized that no paid privileges would exist on the public Internet allowing priority for certain web traffic.