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Verizon, Google propose solution for stalled Internet traffic talks

By Joelle Tessler
Associated Press / August 10, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Phone and cable TV companies that provide Internet access should be barred from slowing down, blocking, or charging to prioritize Internet traffic flowing over their regular broadband lines, Verizon Communications Inc. and Google Inc. said in a policy statement released yesterday.

But the companies left room for broadband providers to charge extra to route traffic from premium services such as remote medical monitoring and smart grid controls over dedicated networks that are separate from the public Internet.

Verizon and Google laid out their vision in a proposal they hope can serve as a framework for Congress and the Federal Communications Commission in drafting so-called Net neutrality rules. Such rules would ensure that phone and cable providers don’t favor their own services or discriminate against Internet phone calls, online video, and other Web services that compete with their core businesses.

Broadband providers such as Verizon and Internet content companies such as Google are at opposite ends in the increasingly bitter debate, but the two companies have been in talks for months to seek common ground.

Their proposal comes days after the FCC declared an impasse in talks to craft an industrywide compromise. Julius Genachowski, the FCC’s chairman, is seeking to adopt neutrality rules that would ensure that broadband subscribers could readily access all legal online content, applications, services, and devices.

The proposal from Google and Verizon would give the FCC authority to enforce those rules for wired networks by prohibiting broadband providers from discriminating against or favoring Internet traffic. The proposal would allow the agency to impose a penalty of up to $2 million on companies that violate the rules. Wireless carriers, which have more capacity constraints, would not be subject to the restrictions, but would have to disclose their network management practices.

Google and Verizon said their proposal would preserve an open Internet but give companies room to experiment with “managed’’ services, which could send video, games, and other bandwidth-hungry applications over separate systems.

Advocacy groups denounced the plan. Joel Kelsey, of Free Press, said it would “transform the free and open Internet into a closed platform like cable television’’ with “tollbooths on the information superhighway.’’

Internet access providers want flexibility to manage traffic so that high-bandwidth applications don’t slow their systems. They say that after spending billions to upgrade their networks, they should be able to operate them as they see fit and earn a healthy profit.