Google, Verizon Deny Deal to Squash Network Neutrality

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-08-05

Google, Verizon Deny Deal to Squash Network Neutrality

Google and Verizon Wireless Aug. 5 said they are not striking a deal to accelerate online content to Internet users more quickly for fees.

The New York Times stated that Google is working with Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content's creators are willing to pay for such service. Google and Verizon said that report was not accurate.

Such an agreement would skewer the idea of network neutrality, a set of Federal Communications Commission principles that calls for no impingement of Internet content, Web sites, platforms or devices by Internet service providers.

As an example, the Times said Google's YouTube site could pay Verizon to make sure its content reached consumers in a timely fashion. The Times, which said a deal could come next week, suggested these fees would lead to higher costs for Web users.

Google Aug. 5 claimed the Times story reporting the negotiations was wrong, adding on its Twitter public policy account that:

"We've not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open Internet."

In a public statement on his corporate blog, Verizon spokesman David Fish called the Times' story "mistaken":

"It fundamentally misunderstands our purpose. As we said in our earlier FCC filing, our goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation. To suggest this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect."

Fish did not expressly deny the Times' point about payment for placement in network traffic.

Consumer advocates fear such deals would put too much power in the hands of Google and Verizon, threatening prospects for an open Web.

Will Google, Verizon Skewer Net Neut?

Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior vice president and policy director of the Media Access Project, said in a statement:

"What is good for Google and Verizon is not necessarily good for innovation and competition on the Internet. What the two companies have in common is that both are incumbents with dominant positions in their markets. It's no wonder they are prepared to strike a deal that protects their market position at the detriment of the next Verizon and the next Google." 

Internet companies such as Google and Verizon and other carriers have long battled over how much sway ISPs should have over how and when they shuttle Web services across their networks.

Google wants to ensure as broad a transmission of its Web services as possible. Carriers want to be able to control their pipes and prioritize traffic as they see fit.

This is the central issue for Google and Verizon.

Naturally, paying for better traffic placement would be anathema to Google's position about network neutrality, a path that led the company May to call for broadband providers to get common carrier status.

The Times wasn't the only reputable publication to note that paying to get ahead in the Internet traffic queue was on the table for the companies.

The Wall Street Journal (paywall warning) noted in its Aug. 5 story that Google and Verizon's pact would enable phone and cable companies to "offer faster, priority delivery of Internet traffic for companies that pay extra for the service."

However, the Journal cited anonymous sources saying that this would not apply network neutrality principles to wireless networks.

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