This morning, as I walked from the front door of my apartment to the elevator, I couldn't help but notice two men wheeling large spools of cable down the hallway. As nerdy as it sounds, I have to admit, the sight of this cable had me pretty excited. Why? Because it was fiber-optic cable being laid by Verizon, in order to bring the company's FiOS fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) service to our building. Now, as any good geek can tell you, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about FiOS; the first FTTP offering from a major ISP, FiOS will boast much faster upload and download speeds than competing broadband services, speeds similar to those seen in countries like Japan. Well, as it turns out, there might be yet another reason to get excited about FiOS: Verizon could be the only major ISP that's committed to maintaining a neutral network.
In light of all of the recent controversy caused by Comcast's packet-spoofing and AT&T's talk of network-wide filtering, gadget blog Gizmodo decided to put together a guide for users looking for ISPs that are unlikely to enact anti-neutral policies in the near term. In order to put the guide together, Gizmodo called up representatives from AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon. What they found was that nearly all of the ISPs talked around the issue, paying lip service to the principles of neutrality while giving non-committal answers to the hard questions. Well, at least they're not openly anti-net neutrality like the U.K.'s Virgin Media… right?
AT&T, for example, vowed not to “become a policeman or enforcement agent on the Internet” but declined to give information relating to its “network management techniques [used during] times of high-volume”. Meanwhile, Comcast seems to have little interest in filtering, though it's quite keen on “network management technologies that, when necessary, enable us to delay—not block—some peer-to-peer traffic.” Time Warner states that it “reserve[s] the right to manage our network” and “supports AT&T's right to manage their network anyway they see fit.”
That leaves Verizon. Striking a very different tone from the other three ISPs, the company unequivocally stated, “We don't manage our network by throttling, slowing or curbing service, either on DSL or FiOS.” With regard to filtering, the company was a little less clear but admitted that it is “reluctant to get into the business of examining content that flows across our networks.” While that's not quite the answer that we're looking for, it is, as Gizmodo points out, “the most pro-active stance against content filtering” seen thus far.
So, does this mean that Verizon is totally committed to maintaining a neutral network and defending your rights as an Internet user? Not necessarily. Without network neutrality legislation in place, there's nothing stopping the company from doing an about-face and instituting restrictive technologies, if it decides that the use of such technologies works to its benefit. However, as Gizmodo duly notes, “Verizon is kinda sorta using their total lack of filtering as an underground marketing thing already, which is especially effective when coupled with FiOS's insane speeds.” Hopefully the company decides to stay that course, at least until a network neutrality bill is signed into law.