Net Neutrality Proponents Blast Google Story

Internet advocacy groups criticize a published report that Google is bailing on network neutrality by seeking to employ edge caching in broadband providers' data centers. By bringing YouTube videos and other content physically closer to users, Google says site operators can improve page load times for videos and Web pages.

Network neutrality proponents are savaging a Dec. 15 Wall Street Journal report that search giant Google is abandoning its longtime pro-network-neutrality stance in order to facilitate its own plan to create a fast lane for itself.

According to the story, Google is seeking preferential treatment from broadband providers by seeking to place Google servers directly in network service providers' data centers to speed delivery of its Web services, particularly video, to consumers. The story suggests Google wants to jump the queue over other content providers.

"One major cable operator in talks with Google says it has been reluctant so far to strike a deal because of concern it might violate Federal Communications Commission guidelines on network neutrality," the Wall Street Journal story stated.

In August 2005, the FCC declared that consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice, run applications and services of their choice, and plug in and run legal devices of their choice. The FCC also said consumers have a right for there to be competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.

Google was first out of the box blasting the Wall Street Journal story, characterizing the report as "confused" about the way in which the open Internet works.

"Broadband providers-the on-ramps to the Internet-should not be allowed to prioritize traffic based on the source, ownership or destination of the content," Richard Whitt, a Google telecom lawyer, said in a Dec. 15 post to the company's blog. "Broadband providers should have the flexibility to employ network upgrades, such as edge caching. However, they shouldn't be able to leverage their unilateral control over consumers' broadband connections to hamper user choice, competition and innovation."

Whitt added, "Our commitment to that principle of net neutrality remains as strong as ever."

Google contends that edge caching is a common practice. "Companies like Akamai, Limelight [Networks] and Amazon's CloudFront provide local caching services, and broadband providers typically utilize caching as part of what are known as content distribution networks. Google and many other Internet companies also deploy servers of their own around the world," Whitt wrote.

Whitt noted that Google is not seeking exclusive edge caching deals with broadband providers and that other content providers are free to make the same deal.