Google and Verizon have proposed net neutrality legislation that would exempt wireless networks from most neutrality regulation and pave the way for a separate, premium internet fast lane — and Facebook is not on board. Spokesman Andrew Noyes said in a statement to reporters today that “Facebook continues to support principles of net neutrality for both landline and wireless networks.”
Wireless neutrality is important to Facebook because it wants an even playing field on which to send data to its 150 million mobile users. CEO Mark Zuckerberg signed a letter to the FCC last year urging them to uphold net neutrality, joining Twitter CEO Evan Williams, Digg founder Kevin Rose — and Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt.
“Preserving an open Internet that is accessible to innovators — regardless of their size or wealth — will promote a vibrant and competitive marketplace where consumers have ultimate control over the content and services delivered through their Internet connections” said Noyes, Head of Public Policy Communications, who Facebook hired last October. The company likely worries that some sort of wireless deal between Verizon and Google could lead to its data being throttled or access getting a lot more expensive. The proposal presented to the FCC would legitimize such as deal.
Google’s Android handset operating system has taken hold with all the major carriers since 2007 when the company spoke out regarding the need for a neutral wireless network. Google’s stronger relationships with the carriers, brought about by the OS and handsets, could help it secure accelerated speeds for access to its web services. This could lead to a slowdown of Facebook mobile data, a scary prospect considering their upcoming duel with Google’s potential competitor to Facebook, Google Me.
While the proposal calls for the first “enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices” for the existing broadband internet, it also excuses a potential parallel, premium channel of the internet from following the same rules. “Our proposal would allow broadband providers to offer additional, differentiated online services…[that] might include health care monitoring, the smart grid, advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options.” Carriers could prioritize innovation on this more monetizable channel, stifling improvements of the open internet which Facebook would likely continue to operate on.
The FCC is currently developing a report on how to improve internet access that will integrate “broad public input” said Chairman Julius Genachowski. Blogs and policy watchdogs have fervently denounced the proposal (see Techmeme for the full discussion) meaning if public opinion continues in this direction, Google and Verizon might not get their way.