1934-2010: The Road to the Google-Verizon Proclamation





Yesterday, Google and Verizon jointly released a two-page document entitled "Verizon-Google Legislative Framework Proposal." The blandness of this name notwithstanding, the news has people talking about an online "fast lane" and "two internets." The Huffington Post calls it "the pact to end the Internet as we know it." Why has this announcement caused so much speculation and outrage?

The answer lies in the laws governing broadband internet and what they do and don't have the power to do. Originally, the same law that created the Federal Communications Commission--the Communications Act of 1934--classified "wire and radio" communications into several types, the most relevant of which are commonly referred to as "Title I" and "Title II" classification. Title II services are known as "common carriers": a company who wants to offer a Title II service has to connect its networks with other companies' networks and, with a few exceptions, allow anyone who wants to make a connection to that service to do so. Landline phone service is regulated under common carriage provisions: if you make a call on a landline with one service provider and call a landline served by a different provider, you aren't charged an extra fee to connect that one call. You also have the right to plug anything you want into your landline--a phone, a modem, a fax machine--as long as it won't do harm to the network....


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