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News English News Google net neutrality flip-flop in spirit of compromise
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After taking a four-day beating on the blogosphere for its new stance on net neutrality, Google has posted a response to its critics. The search engine giant is not working with Verizon on this issue because of the Android OS used on some Verizon-sold smartphones, Google insists.

"FACT: This is a policy proposal—not a business deal," Google's new fact sheet on the issue insists. "Of course, Google has a close business relationship with Verizon, but ultimately this proposal has nothing to do with Android. Folks certainly should not be surprised by the announcement of this proposal, given our prior public policy work with Verizon on network neutrality," going back to January when both companies issued a joint filing to the Federal Communications Commission on this issue.

True enough, the policy recommendations Google and Verizon have put out are directed toward Congress, which is considering rewriting the Telecommunications Act. They don't foreground any business dealings between the two companies.

But as we've reported, much of Google's new stance is far afield from its earlier net neutrality positions—especially its recommendation (now) that wireless services should be exempted from non-discrimination rules. Google's fact sheet acknowledges this difference.

"FACT: It's true that Google previously has advocated for certain openness safeguards to be applied in a similar fashion to what would be applied to wireline services. However, in the spirit of compromise, we have agreed to a proposal that allows this market to remain free from regulation for now, while Congress keeps a watchful eye."

Big takeoff

Why the change? Three reasons, says the company's top Washington DC lawyer Richard Whitt. First, Google thinks that the wireless market is more competitive than wireline. "Second, because wireless networks employ airwaves, rather than wires, and share constrained capacity among many users, these carriers need to manage their networks more actively."

And third, network and device openness "is now beginning to take off as a significant business model in this space."

The statement represents Google's move as a strategic compromise. "This particular issue has been intractable in Washington for several years now," Whitt writes. "At this time there are no enforceable protections—at the Federal Communications Commission or anywhere else—against even the worst forms of carrier discrimination against Internet traffic."

So, "we decided to partner with a major broadband provider on the best policy solution we could devise together. We're not saying this solution is perfect, but we believe that a proposal that locks in key enforceable protections for consumers is preferable to no protection at all."

It remains unclear why Google thinks Congress will move on this issue faster than the FCC. The Commission could, after all, propose and vote on its "third way" common carrier based rules for ISPs a lot sooner than Capitol Hill is going to rewrite the Telecom Act.

But bringing the matter to the House and Senate is what Google says it wants—at least this week. "It's up to Congress, the FCC, other policymakers—and the American public—to take it from here," the company's statement concludes.

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