Verizon defends Net neutrality plan with Google

Verizon's Tom Tauke lashes out at critics who have attacked the company's announcement with Google, calling the complaints misguided and based on mischaracterizations of the joint proposal.

Verizon Communications' Tom Tauke says critics such as MoveOn and Free Press are "dead wrong."
Verizon Communications' Tom Tauke says critics such as MoveOn and Free Press are "dead wrong." Declan McCullagh/CNET

ASPEN, Colo.--A Verizon Communications executive on Monday lashed out at critics who have savaged the company's recent Net neutrality announcement with Google , calling the complaints misguided and based on mischaracterizations of the joint proposal.

The language announced on August 9 is "much tougher than any nondiscrimination proposal that had ever been put on the table publicly before," Tom Tauke, Verizon's executive vice president of public affairs and policy, said at the Technology Policy Institute's Aspen Forum here.

The actual text of the joint proposal to Washington regulators and politicians calls for "a new, enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices" that would prevent wireline broadband providers from prioritizing traffic in a way that "causes harm to users or competition."

Tauke said that in the week or so after the Google-Verizon announcement, special-interest groups--a reference to Free Press, Public Knowledge, and their allies--"decided to engage in the long-perpetuated narrative of a two-tiered Internet. That's wrong. Dead wrong."

Google and Verizon's proposal isn't suggested legislation but is instead a collection of concepts aimed at bringing some finality to discussions of what regulations that will be imposed on tomorrow's Internet. It recommends giving the Federal Communications Commission explicit regulatory authority, but it stops short of extending that power to wireless broadband.

It was not treated kindly by political opponents. An umbrella group for liberal special interests including MoveOn.Org Civic Action,, and Free Press said Net neutrality is being promised "only for a certain part of the Internet." Free Press predicted that the proposal would lead to "outright blocking of applications and content on increasingly popular wireless platforms."

Concerns about wireless blocking are misguided, Tauke said. "We couldn't find one instance where a wireless carrier was blocking access to an application," he said. "But they're being blocked. Why? The operating systems are blocking them...Those who run application stores make decisions about what goes in and what doesn't go in those stores."

Tauke singled out a New York Times article as being especially mistaken. The article said YouTube, owned by Google, would pay fees to "ensure that its content received priority, as it made its way to consumers," which would, in turn, "eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users."

That's "wrong," Tauke said. But "if you're looking for that correction in The New York Times, keep looking--it never occurred."

There's less need for strict Net neutrality regulations for wireless carriers, Tauke said: "The vast majority of consumers have six or more carriers that serve their area, four nationwide. In some cases with 'hard to serve' areas, you have up to 20 players with universal service support."

Disclosure: McCullagh is married to a Google employee not involved in these discussions.

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