Google and Verizon Are Working on a Plan That Would Add a New "Differentiated" Tier on the Internet

After many rumors and much concern about the end of net neutrality, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg unveiled a joint policy proposal on August 9th, 2010 that detailed their thinking on a two-pronged Internet

The idea these powerful executives are pushing maintains net neutrality in one area (wireline broadband providers could not discriminate against lawful content, even if it eats up a lot of bandwidth). 

But the Google/Verizon plan would create a new level of "differentiated" Web services - that would effectively allow Verizon and other Internet service providers to give priority to certain traffic on wired services. And, perhaps most ominously, wireless connections (like those from cellphones) could lead users to a new severely restricted Internet - because service providers like Verizon want to charge independent content-makers a premium. 

Apparently if they get their way, Verizon won't make Google and other large companies pay the premium rate, but small sites will have to pay to get their content to Verizon's wireless customers at useful speeds and resolutions. 

The early reporting (see this Hollywood Reporter report of Aug. 9th, 2010) doesn't explain how a 2 tier system would work, but net neutrality activists are worried that the Google/Verizon plan might evolve into something like the "basic" and "premium" channels on cable TV for wired connections - and new barriers for filmmakers who want to distribute their films to wireless devices. 

While the Google/Verizon plan may seem fair on the surface, numerous commentators and groups interested in preserving open access to the Internet worry that the Google/Verizon plan is just the first step in a plan to "that would kill the Internet as we know it." 

Even the stodgy WGA East issued a statement warning that the Google/Verizon plan would "prioritize online content, granting privilege and advantage to those content creators with deeper pockets who would like nothing better than to destroy the concept of net neutrality." 

The end of net neutrality could be a huge defeat for indie filmmakers, because access to bandwidth might be restricted in favor of the big media companies. 

What do you think about the Google/Verizon plan? Has Google violated their motto and "Gone Evil?"

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Randy Finch's Film Blog:

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