How a Google, Verizon Deal Could Preserve Network Neutrality

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-08-09 Print this article Print

No one but Google and Verizon may know exactly what the two companies are brokering behind closed doors to meet in the middle on network neutrality, but every Google watcher worth his weight in punditry is hazarding guesses.

The New York Times set the blogosphere afire last week when it said Google and Verizon are hashing out a deal in which content providers would pay the carrier to shuttle content to users faster.

YouTube videos, for example, would get priority placement in Verizon's pipes over content makers who did not pay to have their bits jump the line.

eWEEK's Wayne Rash does a fine job explaining how this would benefit Google and consumers here. Hint: It has a lot to do with FiOS Internet-based TV.

The resulting pay scale could force carriers to boost their Internet service package prices, consumer advocates cry.

On an ideological level, this deal sounds perilously close to flogging the hallowed network neutrality rules for not favoring any content over any other. These are rules Google has pledged to support.

Naturally, Google and Verizon denied they are striking such a deal, though others believe some sort of deal where payment for well-placed traffic is indeed happening.

Again, we just don't know because Google and Verizon are quiet and the official talks with the Federal Communications Commission charged with untangling this Gordian knot of broadband policy have been suspended. Ladies and gentleman, we have a standoff.

Count highly regarded author Robert X. Cringely among the pundits to opine on what Google and Verizon are up to.

In a concise op-ed in the New York Times Aug. 8, Cringely claims Google and Verizon could be negotiating how to migrate some of the thousands of servers from Google's prodigious data centers to Verizon's prodigious data centers all over the country.

This would eliminate the hops of data packets that shuttle YouTube video and e-mail from routers and servers to consumers' computers. Cringely explained:

With servers so close to users, Google could not only send its data faster but also avoid sending it over the Internet backbone that connects service providers and for which they all pay. This would save space for other traffic -- and money for both Verizon and Google, as their backbone bills decline (wishful thinking, but theoretically possible). Net neutrality would be not only intact, but enhanced.

Google, he added, would pay Verizon not for priority carriage but for holding and powering its shipping containers.

Now that's a crafty way to avoid skewering network neutrality. The question, if this is true, is: Will the FCC, Capitol Hill and consumers go for it?

What about other Web companies and ISPs? Because this paid prioritization could be a real sea change in the industry. But perhaps the industry needs to be shaken from its staid foundations.

Google tried to disrupt the wireless carrier industry by selling a mobile phone exclusively online and failed. How will it fare in paying for speedier Web service delivery? |

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