Google and Verizon, following release of their joint proposal on Internet regulation today, pushed back against critics who said the plan would undermine the integrity of an open Internet. But at least one member of the House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee was not convinced.
"There is no business arrangement," said Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, on a conference call with reporters. Schmidt and Ivan Seidenberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon, attempted to dispel the notion that the companies' proposal would allow certain Internet content to move faster for those willing to pay for preferential treatment.
"Under the principles we are talking about here, there is no prioritization of Internet traffic that would come under any circumstances," Seidenberg said.
Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., co-sponsor of legislation to preserve Internet openness, criticized the proposal in a statement late today.
"This afternoon's announcement from Google and Verizon falls far short of the net neutrality principles necessary to protect consumers online," Inslee said. "Today's announcement is one more reason that the FCC must act to reclassify broadband and protect consumers online."
One provision of the Google-Verizon "suggested legislative framework" would allow for "differentiated services" to be fast-tracked over the Internet. Such services might include healthcare monitoring, the smart grid and advanced educational services. But according to the companies, those special services would not operate over the public Internet.
Another controversial provision of the framework is the exemption of wireless broadband from all the principles apart from transparency. Critics don't buy any of the net neutrality principles espoused in the proposal.
"The Google-Verizon pact isn't just as bad as we feared - it's much worse," said a statement about the proposal by a coalition of public interest and political groups, including Free Press and MoveOn.org. "They are attacking the Internet while claiming to preserve it. Google users won't be fooled."
Left hanging in the balance is how the FCC will now proceed in its efforts to find an effective way to regulate Internet that allows for the implementation of the national broadband plan.
The FCC is not yet commenting on the companies' proposal that was released this afternoon.
This article appears in the Aug. 14, 2010, edition of National Journal Daily.