Google and the wireless industry have been at each other's throats all year over Net neutrality, but the search giant found room for compromise with new friend Verizon Wireless Wednesday.
Two weeks after announcing joint plans to release a series of phones and devices running Google's Android software on Verizon Wireless' network, the companies have authored a joint position piece on Net neutrality, highlighting their agreement in several broad areas.
Verizon and Google might seem unlikely bedfellows in the current debate around network neutrality, or an open Internet. And while it's true we do disagree quite strongly about certain aspects of government policy in this area--such as whether mobile networks should even be part of the discussion--there are many issues on which we agree.
For starters, we both think it's essential that the Internet remains an unrestricted and open platform--where people can access any content (so long as it's legal), as well as the services and applications of their choice.
On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission plans to consider a proposal to add two new "principles" of support for Net neutrality concepts and make all six principles held by the agency into regulations. In the run-up to the debate, broadband providers like AT&T and Verizon Communications (together with Vodafone, a parent of Verizon Wireless) have argued loudly against such rules, with Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Siedenberg slamming Net neutrality supporters--singling out Google--just hours before the joint Verizon Wireless-Google statement was released.
Net neutrality supporters want the government to develop regulations guaranteeing access to services and applications delivered over the Internet, reducing the ability of wireless carriers and broadband providers to pick and choose preferred services for their networks.
Opponents such as AT&T and Verizon Communications concede that some rules are likely to pass, given the strong level of support among FCC commissioners, but they want to limit the scope of those rules as much as possible.
Despite a historical reputation as the most heavy-handed carrier regarding the applications that run across its network, Verizon Wireless has recently shown signs of loosening up its policies. It has already said it will allow Google Voice to run on the Android handsets slated for its network, an application that has been at the center of much controversy between Google, Apple, and AT&T this year over its exclusion from the iPhone. That's the gist of Verizon's stance in its open letter: self-regulation is better than government regulation.
For its part, Google said it doesn't mind "light-touch regulation"--a phrase it might revisit down the road, as the government takes a closer look at its dominant position in the search market--but the search giant feels "that that safeguards are needed to combat the incentives for carriers to pick winners and losers online."