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Google, Verizon net pact has 'many problems' says FCC commish

Interests of consumers versus giant corporations

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If Google and Verizon thought that their "free except when it isn't" internet plan would have smooth sailing through the US Federal Communications Commission, a response by one FCC commissioner should snap them back to reality.

"Some will claim this announcement moves the discussion forward," said Michael Copps in a statement (PDF) referencing the Google/Verizon proposal. "That's one of its many problems."

Copps didn't detail the "many problems," but the remainer of his statement made it clear that he's firmly on the side of FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's third way plan, which claws back some of the regulatory mojo that the FCC lost when their ability to regulate internet traffic was dope-slapped into near irrelevancy by a federal judge in the Comcast decision.

"It is time to move a decision forward — a decision to reassert FCC authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open Internet now and forever, and to put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations," Copps wrote.

From Copps' point of view, the battle lines in this tug of war are as clear as the stakes are great. Genachowski, a network neutrality proponent, has two "interests of consumers" allies on the commission: Copps and Mignon Clyburn, both Democrats. And then there are the "interests of giant corporations" commissioners, Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker, both Republicans.

While that characterization may seem simplistic, it's far from insupportable.

Genachowski's "third way" plan would grant to the FCC limited "Title II" powers, meaning that some aspects of broadband traffic and carriage would be subject to a subset of the regulatory strictures over which the FCC has control in the telephone marketplace.

When he announced that plan this June, McDowell and Baker pounced on it, characterizing it as a disincentive to investment in infrastructure and — brandishing the anti net-neuts' most powerful talismanic incantation in this time of high unemployment — a "job killer".

Commissioner Clyburn shot back: "I can understand why powerful companies balk at government oversight. They view any government authority as a threat to their unbridled freedom. Indeed, if it were up to them, we would not enact rules; but rather, rely on 'voluntary organizations and forums' made up solely of industry personnel to give us advice on how to serve as a backstop for consumers."

And now "industry personnel" from Google and Verizon have weighed in on how they believe broadband should be regulated: namely, that wireless broadband should be exempt from oversight and that the industry should be permitted to "allow broadband providers to offer additional, differentiated online services" that could be offered with "paid prioritization" — meaning the tiered-pricing plans anathema to net-neut supporters.

Copps is the first commissioner to issue a statement regarding the Google/Verizon "suggested legislative framework." To follow the fun, keep an eye on each of the commissioner's statements pages on the FCC website: Genachowski, Baker, Clyburn, Copps, and McDowell.

While reading their arguments, you can form your own opinion as to which of them side with the "interests of consumers" and which with the "interests of giant corporations". ®

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