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AT&T, Facebook takes sides on Google-Verizon net neutrality proposal

August 11, 2010 |  1:33 pm

Ralph-de-la-Vega Like kids picking sides in a schoolyard quarrel, big Internet businesses are beginning to throw their weight around in response to Google's and Verizon Wireless' proposal on net neutrality.

Unsurprisingly, AT&T seems to be siding with the suggested plan. Ralph de la Vega, the company's wireless chief, called it a "reasonable framework" in response to a question about excluding mobile services from the proposal.

The plan would allow telecoms such as AT&T and Verizon to manage how data flows to new Internet services, which some say could harm innovation, and to interfere with customers' online activities in order to thwart illegal file sharing.

The plan excludes wireless Internet, as accessed by smart phones, from net neutrality regulation. That Verizon and AT&T, the two largest U.S. wireless carriers, would want unmitigated control over their networks is not unexpected.

The Federal Communications Commission opposes the Google-Verizon deal. Duh.

In a statement, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps suggested the FCC should be in charge of discussions "to guarantee an open Internet now and forever, and to put the interests of consumers in front of the interests of giant corporations."

At least one fairly giant corporation is on the FCC's side, though. Facebook takes issue with these neutrality compromises, promoting an unfettered, single-tier Web infrastructure like the one we have now. (That's the stance that Google also publicly supported until several days ago.)

"Facebook continues to support principles of net neutrality for both landline and wireless networks," Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman, told InformationWeek in a statement. "Preserving an open Internet that is accessible to innovators -- regardless of their size or wealth -- will promote a vibrant and competitive marketplace where consumers have ultimate control over the content and services delivered through their Internet connections."

Through lobbying, each of these companies exerts some influence over Washington.

However, the playground arguments are for naught once the principal comes and breaks up the fight because, as Google Chief Eric Schmidt and Verizon Chief Ivan Seidenberg wrote in their Washington Post op-ed on the issue, "Google and Verizon are neither regulators nor legislators."

-- Mark Milian

twitter.com/markmilian

Photo: Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. Credit: Associated Press

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