Google opened a new front in the network neutrality war between content providers and ISPs Jan. 28 by offering measurement tools to help computer users determine why their Web applications are balky.
The search company created Measurement Lab, an open platform upon which researchers can deploy Internet measurement tools, in conjunction with the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, the PlanetLab Consortium and academic researchers.
Google Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf, one of the Internet's founding fathers, wrote in a post explaining M-Lab:
"When an Internet application doesn't work as expected or your connection seems flaky, how can you tell whether there is a problem caused by your broadband ISP, the application, your PC, or something else? It can be difficult for experts, let alone average Internet users, to address this sort of question today."
Cerf added that while researchers today are working on tools to let users gauge their Internet connection speeds and see if their ISP is choking certain Web applications, so far they lack the computing, connectivity and collaboration resources to do so with any authority.
To address this gap, Google will provide researchers with 36 servers in 12 locations in the United States and Europe. Data collected from M-Lab will be made public for researchers' use.
The move is a warning to ISPs that prefer to manage their users' Web connectivity and fight with content providers over this on one of the biggest Internet battlefields: network neutrality.
Part of the House Stimulus Package approved today, net neutrality calls for service providers to have no restrictions on content, sites or platforms, and on the kinds of equipment that may be attached and the modes of communication allowed. It also calls for communication not to be stifled by other communication streams on the Web.
Google, as company whose livelihood and success is predicated on connecting users to content as quickly as possible through its search engine and on delivering quality Web applications to users, is a staunch network neutrality proponent, as are most content providers.