Google and Verizon, two of the biggest players in the Internet game right now, seem to have come to an agreement about pay tiers for data traffic on Verizon’s network. This would allow companies like Google to pay a premium so that traffic for sites like YouTube would get priority on Verizon’s network.
Many are quite upset about this deal, seeing it as the beginning of the end for net neutrality, a “sacred tenet of Internet policy” where no form of content on the Internet is favored over another. It is said that such a system might bring higher costs for customers, turning broadband access into a tiered payment system like we see with cable television.
This deal between Google and Verizon is exclusively between those two companies. Google, who has come out publicly in favor of a free and open Internet, has simply agreed not to challenge any decisions Verizon chooses to make about their network. Many fear, though, that this deal will have implications for the larger network neutrality talks involving the FCC.
The FCC failed in a ruling against Comcast and their right to regulate the Internet was thrown into question. Since that time, they have looked for a way to push through laws that will regulate broadband providers. In their latest efforts, they aim to treat Internet companies just like phone companies. A move which many say will still end up hitting consumers in the wallet.
While the Google-Verizon deal is not directly related, some feel it will influence opinions. Google and Verizon both support an open Internet, but believe that the path to true net neutrality involves “minimal interference from the government.” This deal could push many lawmakers to agree with this sentiment. Free Press President and CEO Josh Silver said:
“Two of the largest companies – Google and Verizon – have reportedly agreed to abandon consumer protections, filter content and limit choice and free speech on the mobile Internet. If true, the deal is a bold grab for market power by two monopolistic players. Such abuse of the open Internet would put to final rest the Google mandate to ‘do no evil.’ The financial interests of Google appear to have finally trumped its belief in policies to preserve the open Internet. A deal with Verizon cements its market power, and could make it more difficult for new app developers and software entrepreneurs to reach consumers.”
Google and Verizon have both enjoyed tremendous success with mobile handsets running Google’s Android operating system on the Verizon Wireless network. Verizon Wireless is the largest U.S. wireless carrier and Google’s Android devices definitely helped Verizon’s profits this year. Google is now activating about 200,000 Android units per day and CEO Eric Schmidt attributes much of this success to the Droid X on Verizon.
Editor’s Note: Since the publishing of this article, Verizon Executive Director of Media Relations David Fish has posted a statement via Verizon’s PolicyBlog. Titled “The New York Times is Mistaken,” Fish disputes claims that Google and Verizon have entered into a business relationship.
The NYT article regarding conversations between Google and Verizon is mistaken. It fundamentally misunderstands our purpose. As we said in our earlier FCC filing, our goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, andincorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation. To suggest this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect.