Google and Verizon have jointly proposed a "neutrality" roadmap in an effort to define how Internet services should be regulated in the future.
The roadmap suggests that neutrality exceptions be made for wireless Internet access, as well as new services, such as advanced educational services, entertainment and gaming options.
"Crafting a compromise proposal has not been an easy process, and we have certainly had our differences along the way. But what has kept us moving forward is our mutual interest in a healthy and growing Internet that can continue to be a laboratory for innovation," Google director of public policy Alan Davidson explained in an official blog post.
"As policy makers continue to formulate the rules of the road, we hope that other stakeholders will join with us in providing constructive ideas for an open Internet policy that puts consumers in charge and enhances America's leadership in the broadband world. We stand ready to work with the Congress, the FCC and all interested parties to do just that."
Unsurprisingly, a number of consumer advocacy groups adamantly oppose the proposal, including Public Knowledge, which warned that such an arrangement would allow Verizon to "prioritize applications and content" at a whim over its mobile broadband network.
"In the absence of clear FCC authority, we can expect to see more deals like this in the near term," said Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn.
"The largest telephone and cable companies and the largest web companies will carve up the Internet as they see fit, deciding who gets access to the Internet's fast lane while the rest of us are stuck in the slow lane."
SavetheInternet.com expressed similar sentiments in a statement signed by numerous coalition members, including MoveOn.Org Civic Action, Credo Action, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, ColorofChange.org and Free Press.
"The Google-Verizon pact isn't just as bad as we feared — it's much worse. They are attacking the Internet while claiming to preserve it. Google users won't be fooled.
"They are promising Net Neutrality only for a certain part of the Internet, one that they'll likely stop investing in. But they are also paving the way for a new 'Internet' via fiber and wireless phones where Net Neutrality will not apply and corporations can pick and choose which sites people can easily view on their phones or any other Internet device using these networks.
"It would open the door to outright blocking of applications, just as Comcast did with BitTorrent, or the blocking of content, just as Verizon did with text messages from NARAL Pro-choice America. It would divide the information superhighway, creating new private fast lanes for the big players while leaving the little guy stranded on a winding dirt road.
"Worse still, this pact would turn the Federal Communications Commission into a toothless watchdog, left fruitlessly chasing complaints and unable to make rules of its own.
"This is not real Net Neutrality. And this pact would harm the millions of Americans who have pleaded with our leaders in Washington to defend the free and open Internet. President Obama, Congress and the FCC should reject this deal, restore the authority of the agency that's supposed to protect Internet users, and safeguard Net Neutrality once and for all."