Google, Verizon Release Joint Proposal for Net Neutrality
This morning, Google and Verizon released a joint proposal that outlines how net neutrality should be preserved. That's the way it appears on the surface, at least. Upon closer inspection, there are some serious caveats.
Net neutrality is the belief that internet providers should not be able to regulate connection speeds based on what content providers are paying for and what users are looking at. Basically, it means that someone viewing a news site and someone watching a streaming movie should be entitled to identical download speeds. Net neutrality is under fire from many corporations; not surprisingly, the wireless networks are some of the most vocal.
Google and Verizon's proposal says that net neutrality should be strictly preserved, but then it goes on to say that this standard only applies to wired networks. In other words, cable networks and similar providers. Verizon then says that wireless networks, such as itself, should not be subject to net neutrality in order to maintain flexibility under different traffic loads.
While most people get their internet through a wired network, that will change in the future. Already, many people rely almost exclusively on the 3G internet connection through their smartphone. Verizon's caveat would mean that those people, and the millions of people in the future who will also rely on the coming wireless 4G networks, will not have the right to net neutrality.
The proposal also says there should be a difference between the "open internet" and the "private internet." This means that standard websites open to the public should be subject to net neutrality, but private websites behind a paywall or subscription service (think streaming movies, or even the Hulu subscription service) should be much less regulated. This will ultimately mean competition between subscription services for premium connection speeds, and uncertain performance for the users of these networks.
Verizon does say the FCC should police the throttling of connection speeds in these private areas and wireless networks and fine "bad actors" for extreme behavior. But it remains to be seen what would be classified as a bad action, and if consumers will be satisfied with the acceptable connection performance anyway.
The bright side is that this is merely a proposal, and for now both Verizon and Google are advocating net neutrality for the "open networks" most of us use on a daily basis. But in the future of wireless networks, the fine print might turn into a big issue.