Verizon, Google Outline Vision on Internet Traffic

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Phone and cable TV companies that provide Internet services should be barred from slowing, blocking or charging to prioritize Internet traffic flowing over their regular broadband lines, Verizon Communications Inc. and Google Inc. said in a policy statement released Monday.

But the companies left room for broadband providers to charge extra to route traffic from premium services such as remote medical monitoring and smart grid controls over dedicated networks that are separate from the public Internet.

Verizon and Google laid out their vision in a policy proposal that they hope can serve as a starting point for so-called "network neutrality" rules, which would dictate how phone and cable companies must treat Internet traffic. Although broadband providers such as Verizon and Internet content companies such as Google are at opposite ends in the increasingly bitter debate over such rules, the two companies have been in talks for months to try to identify common ground.

Their proposal comes just days after the Federal Communications Commission declared an impasse in negotiations to craft an industry-wide compromise on the thorny issue. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is seeking to adopt net neutrality rules that would ensure that broadband subscribers could readily access all legal online content, applications, services and devices.

The proposal from Google and Verizon would give the FCC the authority to enforce those rules for wired networks by prohibiting broadband providers from discriminating against or favoring Internet traffic. Wireless networks, which have more capacity constraints, would not be subject to the restrictions.

In a conference call with reporters, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg said the companies' proposal would preserve the openness of the Internet, but still give phone and cable TV companies room to experiment with "managed" services that could send video, games and other bandwidth-hungry applications over separate systems.

Several public interest groups were quick to denounce the proposal, however. In a statement, Free Press Political Adviser Joel Kelsey said the plan would "transform the free and open Internet into a closed platform like cable television" and "lead to toll booths on the information superhighway."

The FCC declined comment on the companies' announcement.

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