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Congress Members Deliver Smackdown to Google and Verizon over Net Neutrality

Preston Gralla

Four Democratic congressmen have joined
together to denounce a Google-Verizon proposal that they believe will
spell the death of net neutrality. They've written to the head of the
FCC, asking that he act soon, and not allow "two large communications
companies with a vested interest in the outcome" to decide the
Internet's future.

The congressmen are all on the House Energy and Commerce
committee --- Ed Markey (D-MA), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Jay Inslee (D-WA),
and Anna Eshoo (D-CA). Markey has a long-time interest in
telecommunications issues, is the author of H.R. 3458, the Internet
Freedom Preservation Act and has long been a leading voice for net

The Congressmen wrote the letter to Julius Genachowski, the chairman
of the FCC. They're asking the FCC to act now to preserve net
neutrality, and specifically criticize key points of the Google-Verizon
proposal. (You can download the letter as a PDF here.)

As I've written in a previous blog,
the Google-Verizon proposal would hasten the death of net neutrality in
several ways. First is that the companies are asking that wireless
service be excluded from net neutrality rules.

The congressmen, in no uncertain terms, disagree. They write:

"Exclusion of wireless services from open Internet
requirements could widen the digital divide by establishing a
substandard, less open experience for traditionally underserved regions
and demographic groups that may more often need to access or choose to
access the Internet on a mobile device. Moreover, such inconsistent
principles could confuse consumers, who would have different and uneven
experiences depending solely on the connection that their devices might
use to reach the Internet. An Internet framework excluding wireless from
important consumer safeguards could impede attainment of national
broadband goals, while lessening the potential for wireless platforms to
serve unserved and underserved areas."

The other part of the proposal that would help kill net neutrality
is a vague broad loophole for "additional or differentiated services" or
managed services that providers might want to offer. What are these
managed services? No one seems to know.

The congressmen take dead aim at that as well. They warn that
"Broad 'managed services' exceptions would swallow open Internet rules"
and go on to say:

"An overbroad definition of the proposed 'managed
services" category would sap the vitality and stunt the growth of the
Internet...By undermining competition and the value of the open
Internet, managed services could have significantly negative
consequences for consumers and commercial enterprise."

The congressmen want the FCC to establish rules to guarantee that
there will be net neutrality and an open Internet. They take direct aim
at Google and Verizon, writing that:

"Rather than expansion upon a proposal by two large
communications companies with a vested interest in the outcome, formal
FCC action is needed."

Why are the congressmen asking the FCC to act, and to act now? Because they know that Congress won't act. As ars technica points out,
"Congress has been quite direct in saying that it has no plans to act."
That's because Republican are against a net neutrality proposal, and a
number of Democrats are against it as well. So as a practical matter,
there simply aren't enough votes to pass a net neutrality law.

So now it's up to the FCC. Will Google and Verizon be able to
trump that agency? The answer will go a long way toward determining
whether the Internet stays open or not.

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