AT&T Approves of Google-Verizon Net Neutrality Proposal

August 13, 2010 - Written By Maddi Hausmann Sojourner

The largest search engine company met with the US’s largest wireless carrier and came up with a plan on how Net Neutrality should proceed.  The US’s largest fixed telephony firm, which is also its second largest wireless carrier, thinks that’s just swell.

AT&T’s Ralph de laVega, head of their consumer and mobile divisions, said, “It’s a positive sign that shows that those two companies can agree on something as different as net neutrality.”  He described it as a step forward in getting to a reasonable agreement.

Here’s what this means for you.

Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet providers deliver all communications without regard for their content, origin or destination.  Consumer advocates and privacy groups are concerned that large corporations could show preference for their own or business partners’ content, which would result in poorer service for those who don’t pay for premium delivery speeds.  The FCC has repeatedly spoken in favor of Net Neutrality, but has been admonished by proposed Congressional bills that would prevent their doing so.  Over 300 Congress members have written to the FCC discouraging their taking further action.  Coincidentally, those House and Senate members have benefited from generous campaign donations by telecom firms.

The FCC recently voted to look into reclassifying broadband services as common carriers despite this.  Today is the last day for reply comments.

The Google-Verizon plan would maintain Net Neutrality on the wired Internet (such as through your cable or landline provider), but would not apply to wireless communications.  This clearly benefits both companies.  Verizon Communications’ Verizon Wireless division (which is a partnership with Vodafone, the UK’s largest wireless carrier) is the US leader with 92 million customers.  Google benefits from its Android operating system.  Android is the fastest-growing segment of smartphones and has overtaken Apple’s iPhone and Research in Motion’s Blackberry.  With increasing sales of smartphones such as Android OS models, more and more people will be surfing the internet through their wireless provider.  The Google-Verizon plan says the providers can determine which sites to deliver faster.  The concern is wireless providers could discriminate in favor of their own content over anyone else’s who didn’t play for special delivery.

Their joint plan goes further in proposing “managed services,” which would be distinct from the “public internet.”  Firms could prioritize whichever communications they wished in this alternate system.  Internet content could find its way to “managed services” by being packaged differently.  The net result could be the two-tiered system that Net Neutrality proponents have warned about, and content providers having to pay premiums for acceptable delivery speeds or higher quality resolution.

Service providers claim prioritizing traffic would lead to better service for consumers and keep their Internet experience safer.  Well, they had to say something.

What do you think of the proposal, or of AT&T’s statement of support?