By Lowell McAdam, CEO of Verizon Wireless, and Eric
Schmidt, CEO of Google
Verizon and Google might seem unlikely bedfellows in the current debate
around network neutrality, or an open internet. And while
it’s true we do disagree quite strongly about
certain aspects of government policy in this area —
such as whether mobile networks should even be part of the
discussion — there are many issues on which we agree.
For starters we both think it’s essential that the
internet remains an unrestricted and open platform —
where people can access any content (so long as
it’s legal), as well as the services and
applications of their choice.
There are two key factors driving innovation on the web
today. First is the programming language of the internet, which
was designed over forty years ago by engineers who wanted the
freedom to communicate from any computer, anywhere in the
world. It enables Macs to talk to PCs, Blackberry Storms to
iPhones, the newest computers to the oldest hardware on the
planet across any kind of network — cable, DSL, fibre,
mobile, wifi or even dial up.
Second, private investment is dramatically increasing
broadband capacity and the intelligence of networks, creating
the infrastructure to support ever more sophisticated
As a result, however or wherever you access the internet the
people you want to connect with can receive your message. There
is no central authority that can step in and prevent you from
talking to someone else, or that imposes rules prescribing what
services should be available.
Transformative is an over-used word, especially in the tech
sector. But the internet has genuinely changed the world.
Consumers of all stripes can decide which services they want to
use and the companies they trust to provide them. In addition,
if you’re an entrepreneur with a big idea, you can
launch your service online and instantly connect to an audience
of billions. You don’t need advance permission to
use the network. At the same time, network providers are free
to develop new applications, either on their own or in
collaboration with others.
This kind of "innovation without permission" has changed the
way we do business forever, fuelling unprecedented
collaboration, creativity and opportunity. And because America
has been at the forefront of most of these changes, we have
disproportionately benefited in terms of economic growth and
So, in conjunction with the Federal Communications
Commission’s national plan to bring broadband to
all Americans, we understand its decision to start a debate
about how best to protect and promote the openness of the
internet. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has promised a
thoughtful, transparent decision-making process, and we look
forward to taking part in the analysis and discussion that is
to follow. We believe this kind of process can work, because as
the two of us have debated these issues we have found a number
of basic concepts to agree on.
First, it’s obvious that users should continue
to have the final say about their web experience, from the
networks and software they use, to the hardware they plug in to
the internet and the services they access online. The internet
revolution has been people powered from the very beginning, and
should remain so. The minute that anyone, whether from
government or the private sector, starts to control how people
use the internet, it is the beginning of the end of the net as
we know it.
Second, advanced and open networks are essential to the
future development of the web. Policies that continue to
provide incentives for investment and innovation are a vital
part of the debate we are now beginning.
Third, the FCC’s existing wireline broadband
principles make clear that users are in charge of all aspects
of their internet experience — from access to apps and
content. So we think it makes sense for the Commission to
establish that these existing principles are enforceable, and
implement them on a case-by-case basis.
Fourth, we’re in wild agreement that in this
rapidly changing internet ecosystem, flexibility in government
policy is key. Policymakers sometimes fall prey to the
temptation to write overly detailed rules, attempting to
predict every possible scenario and address every possible
concern. This can have unintended consequences.
Fifth, broadband network providers should have the
flexibility to manage their networks to deal with issues like
traffic congestion, spam, "malware" and denial of service
attacks, as well as other threats that may emerge in the future
— so long as they do it reasonably, consistent with
their customers’ preferences, and
don’t unreasonably discriminate in ways that
either harm users or are anti-competitive. They should also be
free to offer managed network services, such as IP
Finally, transparency is a must. Chairman Genachowski has
proposed adding this principle to the FCC’s
guidelines, and we both support this step. All providers of
broadband access, services and applications should provide
their customers with clear information about their
Doubtless, there will be disagreements along the way. While
Verizon supports openness across its networks, it believes that
there is no evidence of a problem today — especially
for wireless — and no basis for new rules and that
regulation in the US could have a detrimental effect globally.
While Google supports light touch regulation, it believes that
safeguards are needed to combat the incentives for carriers to
pick winners and losers online.
Both of our businesses rely on each other. So we believe
it’s appropriate to discuss how we ensure that
consumers can get the information, products, and services they
want online, encourage investment in advanced networks and
ensure the openness of the web around the world.
We’re ready to engage in this important policy
This article, reproduced with permission, was originally