Verizon's Tauke Defends Google Policy Accord


Verizon executive vice president Tom Tauke Monday defended the company's public policy accord with Google on network neutrality, arguing that it was a case of "antagonists" finding common ground. He even took a jab at Google, saying it, not wireless carriers, was one of the ones blocking applications.

That came in a speech at the Technology Policy Institute's Aspen Forum. Tauke said that when asked several months ago to speak, he had planned to talk about the national broadband plan, tax policy, privacy, security and spectrum. Instead, he took on the "elephant in the room," network neutrality, and the criticisms of the Google public policy according, particularly its support for managed services and its carve-out for wireless broadband from all of its openness recommendations save for transparency.

Tauke pointed out that the accord included signing on to the FCC's openness principles and adopting a fifth nondiscrimination principle "is much tougher than any other non-discrimination principle that had been put on the table publicly before."

But while that principle presumes no prioritization of Internet traffic, Verizon and Google were heavily criticized for their support of providing other services over broadband that could be prioritized. Tauke said that reports stating the provision might be a way for Google to prioritize its traffic were wrong, as was the suggestion the accord was a business deal.

Google has already publicly pledged that it is keeping its services -- like YouTube -- on the public Internet.

Tauke also suggested that critics were being shortsighted. "Certainly nobody believes that the promise of broadband is Internet access and video, which is what we have today," he said. Among the criticisms was about providing a work-around for streaming video services that wanted to pay for priority treatment.

Pointing out that many businesses use virtual private networks to allow them to access benefits and services, Tauke said consumers should not be denied the same opportunity to access other services in addition to the Internet: "Why should we say that this is good for businesses, but it is not good for consumers living at home? Why would we say to the consumer living at home that they shouldn't be able to have their heart monitored or their blood pressure taken at home after they finish a hospital stay? Why would we say that consumers at home should not be able to get secure connections which would allow them to engage in a variety of activities, many of which we cannot even envision now?"

The companies also got flak for treating wireless broadband differently, but Tauke said that was because it is different. He cited the physics of managing networks where connections are mobile and unpredictable, where there is more competition to provide alternatives for carriers whose policies a customer doesn't like, and because the wireless marketplace is changing rapidly with the explosion in applications.

Perhaps to demonstrate that there is still some antagonist in the relationship. Tauke also said he could not find any instance where a wireless carrier had blocked an application in the network, but that Google had.

"[A]pplications are being blocked. You know where they are being blocked? The operating systems developed by Apple and Google and RIM and a variety of others.... And the operating systems in some cases even have the capability after you download an application, zapping it out," he said. "Of course, those who operate applications stores make decisions about what goes in and doesn't go in those stores. So when we looked at the problem of downloading applications and blocking them, it wasn't the network providers we were talking about, it was these other players."

Tauke said he recognized that the accord was not a magic bullet. "[S]ome people in the public policy arena want all of the answers to any potential problem right now. That isn't the way the policy process works."