August 11th 2010
Doing the FCC’s job?
On Monday August 9th.
Verizon and Google issued a joint ‘suggested policy framework for lawmakers’
which reads as if it had come from the FCC, leading to an appropriate response from FCC commissioner Michael J. Copps that it is “time to reassert (FCC’s) authority”.
The framework endorses all the good ‘motherhood’ concepts - openness for legal content, nondiscrimination that does not block or degrade the Internet, and transparency for both wireline and wireless. And it addresses some of the traffic and network management concerns raised in my blog of May 27th
. But the sting is in the tail. The fifth and sixth points posted in the expository blog
carve out two major markets.
The ‘Carve Out’
.Two key markets are carved out for minimal FCC oversight and therefore would not be subject to many ‘net neutrality’ and access requirements.
First area is ‘differentiated online services’
that integrate application services with bandwidth – “healthcare monitoring, the smart grid’ etc. i.e. vertical markets where performance and security must be guaranteed. The proposed Verizon and Google approach allows each application to be ‘nailed-up’ to a specific network - rather than the Virtual Private Networks VPNs) with Service Level Agreements(SLAs) that operate today. This could lead to significant innovation – if only it were not based on exclusive bi-lateral transport and applications vendor deals. Haven’t we been here before? Didn’t this lead to the original Enhanced vs. Basic Services split of Computer Enquiry II
. And it recreates the comparatively unsuccessful ‘Walled Garden’ approach to applications.
Second ‘carve out’ is wireless broadband
which is claimed to have “unique technical and operational characteristics” and to be “more competitive and changing rapidly”, so “in recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace” Verizon and Google recommend against
applying any of the “wireline principles” except transparency.
Broadband is Broadband is Broadband….
Although wireless has historically had special treatment, mobile broadband is rapidly reaching parity with wireline speeds and quality. Over the next two years applications will operate seamlessly across wireless and wireline networks and many users may not even be aware which network they are on.
To users Broadband is Broadband. All applications require an appropriate class of service at a competitive price. Special value added networks and mobile broadband cannot and should not be carved out from the general area of FCC broadband service oversight.
Reactions and Furor on both sides of the ‘pond’
In the US
, Wall Street Journal welcomes this ‘Traffic Plan’
and TIA notes that the “Verizon and Google…rightly addressed important issues such as the need for network management
welcoming it as a “step in the right direction … and a possible solution to the uncertainty created by the Comcast decision.”
But bloggers and the New York Times Opinion page
started discussing carrier/search engine business alliances and making jokes about ‘VerGoogle
’ that have now prompted a strong tweet denial from Google “We've not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet.”
Wired magazine however, describes the ‘differentiated online services network’ as a “left-field proposal to anticipate an entirely new information highway for ‘fast lanes’
” and believes that “Google and Verizon have proposed creating a second, paid-access-only internet” “over an unspecified global network”. Could that be Verizon’s new Packet Optical Transport Platform (P-OTP) network
Across the pond reactions are still evolving
. Financial Times subtly points out that “industry insiders on Capitol Hill and at the FCC are questioning Google’s motives for an apparent about-face on its position as one of the most powerful advocates of net neutrality.
Others reflect the stronger view that the EU is taking on Net neutrality.with one blogger warning that “An obvious outcome … is that when Google is dragged backwards through an antitrust investigation by the EC or DoJ, it will find no favours from civil society after this betrayal…..Good luck, Google - you thought China was sticky in terms of political support, you'll find that was a storm in a delicate teacup.”