Google Seeks Net Neutrality Clarity From FCC


Washington -- Google Inc. is pressing federal regulators to provide clear guidance to broadband network owners on acceptable ways of managing Internet traffic.

Such guidance would “help ensure that broadband networks remain open platforms to the Internet,” Google 

said in a letter filed electronically at the Federal Communications Commission.

Google's letter documented a phone call to FCC Democrat Jonathan Adelstein placed by Google policy counsel Johanna Shelton, a former FCC aide to Adelstein.

On Friday, the FCC is expected to vote that Comcast Corp. violated agency policy over the cable operator's management peer-to-peer Internet traffic generated by BitTorrent users.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin, FCC Democrat Michael Copps and Adelstein are expected to produce the three votes necessary to prevail over Republicans Robert McDowell and Deborah Taylor Tate.

In a March agreement with BitTorrent, Comcast said it would stop targeting specific applications; instead, it said it would focus on subscribers who are consuming more than their fair share bandwidth.

In her call with Adelstein, Google's Shelton said the FCC needed to provide “useful clarity on the types of protocol-agnostic network management practices that are acceptable under the [FCC's] Internet policy statement.”

Martin has accused Comcast of violating the policy statement by blocking BitTorrent traffic, a charge Comcast has denied. 

In August 2005 when the policy statement was adopted, Martin issued a statement saying the document was unenforceable.

In the letter, Shelton did not mention Google's involvement in the Clearwire venture, a high-speed wireless Internet access service that is awaiting FCC approval, or whether Google's investment is consistent with the FCC's Internet policy statement.

Google has invested $500 million for a guaranteed place as Clearwire's default search engine. In FCC filings, Clearwire has said very little about the ease with which its subscribers will be able to bypass Google's various services.

Writing in the July 23 Financial Times, George Mason University economist Thomas Hazlett referred to the Clearwire venture, which includes Comcast and Time Warner, as "Net Neutrality Not."

"Google's search engine," Hazlett said, "gets its own button on the [Clearwire] phones, a cute efficiency copied from the wildly popular DoCoMo network in Japan."