Originally published: August 9, 2010
Last updated: August 9, 2010 - 8:46pm
The Google/Verizon press release proclaims that the proposal means that "for the first time, wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition." But the legislative document itself says the following: "In providing broadband Internet access service, a provider would be prohibited from engaging in undue discrimination against any lawful Internet content, application, or service in a manner that causes meaningful harm to competition or to users."
So who is going to decide what kind of harm is "meaningful"? Presumably the Federal Communications Commission, which gets to issue $2 million fines -- except that under this plan the agency would enforce its components "through case-by-case adjudication, but would have no rulemaking authority with respect to those provisions." "Parties would be encouraged to use nongovernmental dispute resolution processes established by independent, widely-recognized Internet community governance initiatives," the proposal continues, "and the FCC would be directed to give appropriate deference to decisions or advisory opinions of such groups." In other words, some kind of organization dominated by Google and Verizon would decide what constitutes "meaningful harm," and the FCC would do what it tells them to do.
And yes, the "new nondiscrimination principle" the companies advocate "includes a presumption against prioritization of Internet traffic -- including paid prioritization." "Prioritization of Internet traffic would be presumed inconsistent with the non-discrimination standard, but the presumption could be rebutted," the fine print says. And the scheme's definition of "reasonable network practices" includes "any technically sound practice... to address traffic that is unwanted by or harmful to users, the provider's network, or the Internet..." and... "to prioritize general classes or types of Internet traffic, based on latency; or otherwise to manage the daily operation of its network."
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