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Verizon-Google Net Neutrality Proposal Takeaways

Verizon and Google's announced net neutrality legislative proposal is a significant new development with at least a couple of significant implications.

Takeaways:

First, it is even more clear that the FCC should give the legislative process time to play out on net neutrality.

While this is a legislative proposal of only two of the many major stakeholders in the net neutrality debate, it still sends a strong signal to Congress and the FCC that the stakeholder negotiating process -- that has been occurring over the last several weeks -- holds real potential for substantive progress and resolution, if the FCC is patient and gives the process the appropriate time and breathing room to play out.

  • In the absence of any market problem -- and with both this fresh evidence of progress in stakeholder negotiations and a strong majority of the Congress writing the FCC that  they prefer a legislative solution over preemptive FCC action -- the FCC should respect Congress' prerogatives and let the legislative process play out.
  • If the FCC were to rush ahead and unilaterally and hastily preempt Congress' role this fall -- with a declaratory ruling that effectively would legislate that broadband be regulated as a monopoly telecom service for the first time -- the FCC would expose that they are more interested in an opportunistic power grab and asserting FCC policy supremacy, than in resolving this issue most effectively and constructively for the Nation overall. 
  • Moreover, if the FCC proves hostile to Verizon and Google's proposed building block framework, and continues to prematurely give up on the stakeholder negotiating process, it will be speak volumes about the FCC's real endgame here.

Second, Google's many major concessions are an important reality check for the FCC and net neutrality absolutists. While FreePress and the net neutrality fringe demand the pure absolute net neutrality of a monopoly regulated utility under Title II, Google now apparently believes that extreme position is no longer credible.

  • In supporting a legislative proposal where: "The FCC would enforce consumer protection and non-discrimination requirements through case-by-case adjudication, but would have no rulemaking authority with respect to those provisions" [bold added] -- Google is signalling that the FCC's current plan to self-assert sweeping regulatory authority over broadband via a Title II declaratory ruling is a non-starter. 
  • Moreover, Google proposes to allow due discrimination on broadband and to allow the FCC to decide that some types of prioritization of Internet traffic would not be considered discriminatory.  
  • Furthermore, Google proposes to allow wide latitude for reasonable network management and to exempt "additional online services" from the new non-discrimination requirement.

In short, Verizon and Google appear to have changed the overall dynamic with their announcement, showing that stakeholder negotiations and the legislative option may be viable and should be given time and support to further develop.

  • Those who don't want a negotiated compromise, but seek a heavy-handed edict from the FCC, like FreePress, will surely push the FCC to go it alone, ignore Congress, and abandon the potential for a much more broadly negotiated settlement of this mess -- that will only get messier if the FCC rushes to usurp both Congress' and the Court's authority.     
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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths