The big mystery of what exactly Verizon and Google were talking about behind closed doors was solved this afternoon when about 1:45 p.m. ET, the two telecom companies issued a joint policy proposal, announcing a compromise on net neutrality. Their suggestions are legislative framework for policymakers, they said.
"Google and Verizon have been working together to find ways to preserve the open Internet andthe vibrant and innovative markets it supports, to protect consumers, and to promote continued investment in broadband access. With these goals in mind, together we offer a proposed open Internet framework for the consideration of policymakers and the public," the proposal says.
The formal announcement was posted by Tom Tauke, Verizon's executive vice president of public affairs, and Alan Davidson, Google's director of public policy, on their respective policy blogs this afternoon.
"The original architects of the Internet got the big things right. By making the network open, they enabled the greatest exchange of ideas in history. By making the Internet scalable, they enabled explosive innovation in the infrastructure," Tauke and Davidson wrote. "It is imperative that we find ways to protect the future openness of the Internet and encourage the rapid deployment of broadband. Verizon and Google are pleased to discuss the principled compromise our companies have developed over the last year concerning the thorny issue of 'network neutrality.' "
The companies' talks, which became the subject of much speculation last week after they were leaked -- have apparently been guided by two themes: that users should choose what content, applications and devices they use and that America must continue to encourage investment and innovation, according to the announcement.
The framework proposal includes consumer protections that prohibit service providers from preventing broadband users from sending and receiving lawful content, running lawful applications and services and connecting legal devices that do not harm the network. The proposal also inclues a non-discrimination requirement that prohibits service providers from "engaging in undue discrimination against any lawful Internet content, application, or service in a manner that causes meaningful harm to competition or to users."
The non-discrimination section goes on to say the "prioritization of Internet traffic would be presumed inconsistent with the non-discrimination standard, but the presumption could be rebutted."
Network management and prioritizing classes of Internet traffic -- a touchy topic related to net neutrality -- is also addressed in the proposal. Service providers should be permitted to engage in "reasonable network management," it states. Reasonable management includes reducing or mitigating the effects of network congestion, ensuring network security, addressing traffic that is unwanted or harmful to users and ensuring service quality to subscribers. The proposal also makes prioritizing "general classes or types of Internet traffic, based on latency" acceptable.
Their proposed transparency guidelines would also require service providers to disclose information regarding the "characteristics and capabilities of their offerings, their broadband network management, and other practices necessary for consumers and others to make informed choices."