Google, Verizon, and loophole-riddled promises

Google and Verizon finally weighed in yesterday with their long-awaited joint proposal on network neutrality, which I discussed last week in a blog item about leaked reports.

It turns out that some of last week's reports were off-kilter - you can read Google's public-policy blog on the actual proposal here, and see the joint statement here. This was not a commercial deal, and it does not blatantly give way to the concept of tiered pricing and fast lanes. On the other hand, the companies' suggested "legislative framework" opens the door to network owners' devoting a portion of their systems to specially priced "additional services," which fueled  protests such as this one from Free Press

So far, much of the critical reaction has centered on the companies' determination to limit any commitment to neutrality to the wireline broadband Internet, and exempt wireless networks from any such promises.  Perhaps Google did evil in going along with that, as some critics content.  but it's hardly a shock that Verizon - owner of what's widely considered the nation's best wireless network - is trying to protect its investment.

That demarcation is surely a concern, especially as the lines continue to blur between fiber-optic broadband and wireless broadband. But there may be bigger cause for concern in the statement's description of "network management" exceptions, which look like loopholes big enough to stuff, oh, a Comcast-BitTorrent-case through. (If you don't recall that famed net-neutrality violation, you can read about it here.)

Here's what Google and Verizon say about "Network Management":

Broadband Internet access service providers are permitted to engage in reasonable network management. Reasonable network management includes any technically sound practice: to reduce or mitigate the effects of congestion on its network; to ensure network security or integrity; to address traffic that is unwanted by or harmful to users, the provider’s network, or the Internet; to ensure service quality to a subscriber; to provide services or capabilities consistent with a consumer’s choices; that is consistent with the technical requirements, standards, or best practices adopted by an independent, widely-recognized Internet community governance initiative or standard-setting organization; to prioritize general classes or types of Internet traffic, based on latency; or otherwise to manage the daily operation of its network.

Comcast, as you'll recall, was simply trying to manage its broadband network when it blocked BitTorrent users - in fact, it said almost exactly that it was attempting to "reduce or mitigate the effects of congestion on its network." Under this deal, it would have to "disclose accurate and relevant information in plain language" about its practices. But it could block away, and with a smile.