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Google, Verizon tell FCC to ease off on broadband regulation

Google and Verizon Communications came out yet again as bosom buddies, this time in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal calling for "minimal regulation" by the Federal Communications Commission.

In a jointly penned op-ed Tuesday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg lauded the agency for its national broadband plan but also cautioned regulators against meddling too much where, the execs said, private industry has been doing just fine.

"The Internet has thrived in an environment of minimal regulation. While our two companies don't agree on every issue, we do agree generally as a matter of policy that the framework of minimal government involvement should continue," they said.

Schmidt and Seidenberg said there is a role for government in helping spur adoption and making energy and health-care related reforms through broadband Internet applications.

“To make advanced networks broadly available and otherwise drive important changes online, we need both private investment and partnerships between governments and private companies,” Schmidt and Seidenberg wrote.

But the comments added to a growing chorus of Internet and communications heavyweights calling for the FCC to keep in check. Google has been an advocate of policies like net neutrality – which would ensure that Google applications couldn’t be relegated to a slow lane by Web access providers like Verizon. And Google was a strong advocate of a petition for the FCC to make wireless networks open to any device or application. But the company, analysts say, is also of the generally Libertarian swath of Silicon Valley that likes to avoid policies and laws unless it advances its business.

The comments come after Verizon and AT&T last week both questioned the role of the FCC over Internet policy, including oversight over broadband service providers. The phone giants warned the FCC against classifying Internet service providers as common carrier services -- a move some analysts and public interest groups say is needed for the agency to make clear that it can regulate the industry as it embarks on its decade-long plan to bring affordable broadband connections to all Americans.

Last Monday, the telecom heavyweights criticized the FCC for inserting a condition into a merger between SkyTerra and Harbinger. The condition would make it more cumbersome for AT&T and Verizon to lease spectrum from the satellite company -- a requirement meant to help bring more competition into the wireless market. AT&T's top lobbyist said the FCC overstepped its authority to impose that condition.

By Cecilia Kang  |  March 30, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
 | Tags: FCC, Google, Verizon, broadband plan  
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