Google/Verizon Dust-Up Puts Spotlight On Neutrality Regs

When the Federal Communications Commission passed net neutrality rules last year, consumer advocates complained that regulations gave too much leeway to wireless carriers.

The rules prohibit wireless carriers from blocking or degrading traffic, and from blocking competing apps offering video, telephony or voice service. But the regulations don't prohibit wireless carriers from blocking other types of apps. Wireline carriers, by contrast, must follow broader non-discrimination principles.

Advocates now say that a dust-up between Google and Verizon highlights just how limited those rules are. This week, news broke that Verizon intends to block Google Wallet -- a mobile payment system -- from the Galaxy Nexus phone. Verizon has said it's doing so for security reasons and is in continuing talks with Google. Meanwhile, however, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are prepping Isis, a joint mobile payment system of their own.

Advocacy groups Free Press and Public Knowledge today said that Verizon's decision about Google Wallet demonstrates the failings of the neutrality rules. “Today’s dispute between Google and Verizon is just the type of situation that likely would not happen if it were clear that a firm ‘no discrimination’ standard were in effect for wireless services,” Public Knowledge legal director Harold Feld said in a statement.

“Much of the disagreement makes little sense,” he added. “Consumers would not have the benefit of Google’s Wallet service pre-installed when buying a Galaxy Nexus phone, presumably because of Verizon’s security concerns. But consumers could download the application and use it once it is cleared by Verizon.”

Free Press policy director Matt Wood added that the dispute shows “the grave mistake made by the FCC in failing to adopt meaningful consumer protections for mobile services in its net neutrality proceeding last year.”

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