Google and Verizon Allegedly in Talks to Undermine Net Neutrality, Google Denies

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Verizon and Google are allegedly in talks for a deal that may undermine net neutrality according to sources privy to the discussions between the two companies. The agreement between the Mountain View-based search giant and America’s largest wireless carrier (by subscriber count) is going to be made public in a few days, but in the meantime it seems that the two are arranging to manage or influence how consumers access the web. Of course, other major companies are part of talks right now that may be covering just how the Internet will be managed and accessed.

Net neutrality has become one of today’s hot button topics, because it deals with the way internet service providers service up web pages and web services. The term “net neutrality” is used to reference any regulation that would prevent ISPs from giving preference to certain web content and and pushing traffic to certain websites or services that it deems more lucrative. Or, as Wikipedia puts it, net neutrality “is a principle proposed for user access networks participating in the Internet that advocates no restrictions by Internet Service Providers and governments on content, sites, platforms, on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and no restrictions on the modes of communication allowed.”

The Washington Post reports:

Verizon wouldn’t confirm that a deal was struck but said in an e-mail statement:

“We’ve been working with Google for 10 months to reach an agreement on broadband policy. We are currently engaged in and committed to the negotiation process led by the FCC. We are optimistic this process will reach a consensus that can maintain an open Internet and the investment and innovation required to sustain it.”

Specifically, Google and Verizon’s agreement could prevent Verizon from offering some prioritization to the biggest bidders who want better delivery of content on its DSL and fiber networks, according to the sources. But that wouldn’t apply to mobile phones, the sources said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the companies have not officially made their announcement.

Prioritizing content delivery from those who have the most funds to back those efforts would definitely be a huge strike against net neutrality, and so it’s good to see the agreement that would prevent any such prioritization of content or preferential treatment of internet services. However, the fact that mobile phones may not be included in the agreements basically nullifies everything else since the Internet is, well, the Internet–regardless of what device or means you use to access it.

However, Google denies that there are any talks that could go against net neutrality as it tells ComputerWorld:

“The New York Times is quite simply wrong,” wrote Mistique Cano, a Google spokesman, in an e-mail. “We have not had any conversations with Verizon about paying for carriage of Google traffic. We remain as committed as we always have been to an open Internet.”

There is no doubt that Google and Verizon have been discussing Internet issues, much of which probably does revolve around net neutrality, but only time will tell what ultimately comes out of the meetings. On one hand, we have anonymous sources claiming that Verizon will aid the search company in speedier and preferential content delivery. On the other, the search giant went on record as completely denying all of that. It will be interesting to see what comes of the talks, that’s for sure.

Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, has this to say regarding the matter:

We have been talking to Verizon for a long time about trying to get an agreement on the definition of what net neutrality is. We’re trying to find solutions that bridge between the hardcore net neutrality view and the telecom view. I want to be clear what we mean by net neutrality. What we mean is if you have one data type like video, you don’t discriminate against one person’s video in favor of another. But it’s OK to discriminate across different types, so you could prioritize voice over video, and there is general agreement with Verizon and Google on that issue. The issues of wireless vs. wireline get very messy because of the issue of Type I vs Type II regulation and that is an FCC issue not a Google issue.

It’s good to see the clarification here, that the discrimination or favoritism will not fall within data types.

[Via: Washington Post and ComputerWorld]

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