Verizon and Google find common ground

Google and Verizon filed a joint letter to the FCC last week, finding some common ground “on a number of important matters that are crucial to the formulation of an enlightened, sustainable Internet policy for the United States.”

Among highlights are:

  1. Preserving Openness. It is essential that the Internet remains an unrestricted and open platform, where people can access the lawful content, services, and applications of their choice. … where anyone, including network providers, are able to innovate without permission and provide any applications or services of their choosing, either on their own or in collaboration with others.
  2. Encouraging Investment and Innovation in Broadband Networks. …continued private investment is essential to increase the reach and capabilities of advanced intelligent networks, which will in turn support the development of ever more sophisticated applications.
  3. Providing Users with Control. No entity from either the government or the private sector should wrest control from consumers over how they choose to use the Internet, and the government should not implement policies that would limit consumers’ ability to choose for themselves.
  4. Providing Users with Information. Transparency will ensure an environment of informed user choice.
  5. Maintaining Balanced Intellectual Property Policy. We both recognize the importance of protecting intellectual property in the digital environment and each of us engages in efforts to assist content owners in enforcing their rights and deterring online copyright infringements.
  6. Keeping Internet Applications, Content, and Services Free from Communications Regulation. There is … no sound reason to impose communications laws or regulations on the robust marketplace of Internet content, applications, and services.
  7. Providing a Leadership Role for Expert Technical Bodies. [A] model of self-governance and collaboration, with minimal government involvement, will continue to serve the Internet well into the future.

The companies go on to promote self-governance as the hallmark of the success of the Internet; that any government intervention needed to address harm to users or to competition, should be surgical, swift and based on a finding of specific facts that establish harm.

The companies appear to agree in rejecting the reduction of broadband carriers to commodity dumb pipes:

Google and Verizon acknowledge that broadband network providers, in addition to offering traditional Internet access services, should have the ability to offer consumers additional service options over their broadband facilities. Clearly, broadband infrastructure has multiple uses, and network operators should continue to have the ability to offer users the choice of service options in addition to traditional Internet access services.

Google and Verizon seem to endorse a Canadian style nondiscrimination rule, stating that the focus should be to prevent harm to users or to competition. They agree that differential treatment of Internet traffic by network operators can be beneficial or harmful to users and therefore need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The companies have a number of areas of divergence on such issues as the FCC’s authority to regulate and wireless network applicability, so they also filed separate submissions on those matters.

The joint letter is notable in demonstrating an evolution of the debate on net neutrality in the US, contrasted with a more static perspective often expressed on our side of the border.

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