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Speaking during the Oppenheimer annual Technology, Media and Telecommunications conference today, AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega called the proposed framework released by Verizon and Google "a good sign" and said that it could provide a framework for any legislators who wanted to take up the issue of net neutrality regulations.
"It shows that two companies that are sometimes in different camps can come together with a reasonable agreement," he said. "If Google and Verizon can come together with a joint framework then it will be a good framework for the legislature to use."
De la Vega said that the U.S. Congress, not the Federal Communications Commission, should be in charge of drawing up regulations for carriers' traffic management policies. The FCC under chairman Julius Genachowski has been pushing to reclassify Internet services as telecommunications services, thus giving the commission the power to enforce net neutrality regulations.
AT&T has long been an opponent of enforcing net neutrality rules stating that ISPs should not be allowed to block or degrade Internet traffic from their competitors in order to speed up their own. Under the joint framework released by Verizon and Google, ISPs would have to maintain completely neutral networks over their wireline services while facing no such restrictions on their wireless networks. Carriers would also be able to carve out certain "additional" Web-based services such as "healthcare monitoring, the smart grid, advanced educational services, or new entertainment or gaming options."
The proposed framework has been slammed by net neutrality advocates, who point out that such an approach could lead to a two-tiered Internet where carriers could easily favor their own content over wireless networks and could crowd out competitors with their additional services. Additionally, the Verizon-Google framework does little to address how net neutrality will be maintained if wireless services advance to the point where they become the default Internet service, much as cellular phones are today used for default voice services.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps has criticized the Google-Verizon framework and has said that it is no substitute for strong regulation by the FCC. In a statement released this week, Copps called on the FCC to "reassert… authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee and open Internet now and forever."
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