Add Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps to the roster of those who oppose a net neutrality proposal put forward by Google and Verizon. Writing in the Washington Post, Copps says the plan "creates a two-tiered Internet at the expense of the open Internet we now have," while also transforming the FCC "into an agent of big business."
Earlier this month, Google and Verizon proposed that Internet service providers should be prohibited from degrading or prioritizing traffic that currently travels over the public Internet, but that providers should be allowed to prioritize managed services like telemedicine, advanced educational services and new entertainment offerings. Google and Verizon also said they don't think the government should require wireless carriers to follow non-discrimination principles.
Copps criticized that blueprint, saying that he supports an alternate plan that would "put broadband back under Title II, where it belongs."
The FCC is currently considering whether to reverse a 2002 decision that classified broadband as a Title I information service and recategorize it as a telecommunications service, which would subject broadband providers to some of the same common carrier rules that govern telephone companies. FCC chair Julius Genachowski recommended reclassification after a federal appellate court ruled that the agency lacked authority to enforce net neutrality principles because broadband was considered an information service.
A host of neutrality advocates have criticized the Google-Verizon plan, arguing that wireless services should be subject to neutrality rules and that allowing prioritized fast lanes would create a two-tiered Internet, with private fast lanes for big companies willing to pay extra and smaller businesses shuttled to a slower public Internet. "This could stall investment in the open Internet -- freezing the public Internet in 2010 while the new high-speed lanes take a few big players into the future," Free Press research director S. Derek Turner said of Google and Verizon's proposal.
The digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation added that any decision about prioritizing specialized services should be made on an individualized basis.
Meanwhile, AT&T this week submitted a report to the FCC arguing that paid prioritization already exists online. "AT&T alone has hundreds of third-party customers for such services," the company said, adding that these customers include "healthcare providers, community service organizations, restaurant chains, car dealers, electric utilities, banks, municipalities, security/alarm companies, hotels, labor unions, charities, and video-relay service providers."