Google & Verizon Stab Net Neutrality in the Back


google_recruiting_small.jpgADOTAS – All content is created equal, but some content is more equal than others — or so would seem to be the lesson from Google and Verizon’s private negotiations regarding priority content delivery, which appear to be coming to a close after 10 months.

In exchange for an agreement not to slow or block any content, Google will let Verizon will rev up the speed of selected online content delivered to Internet users — if the content creators are willing to pay a fee. It’s a pretty big reversal for Google, formerly a fierce advocate for net neutrality — an unspoken truce between content creators, Internet providers and the government that all access is equal.

In 2006, CEO Eric Schmidt composed a blog urging Internet users to call their congresspeople in support of net neutrality, warning that “phone and cable monopolies, who control almost all Internet access, want the power to choose who gets access to high-speed lanes and whose content gets seen first and fastest. They want to build a two-tiered system and block the on-ramps for those who can’t pay.”

My, how four years can change things. However, it may be that Google is settling for the lesser of two evils: while it will be able to offer faster speeds for paying content subscribers, Verizon will not be able to selectively slow Internet content over its broadband connections. The deal leaves the door open concerning the mobile web.

Critics of the deal argue that consumers could see a tiered payment system and higher costs for premium service — something akin to pay-cable. In general, it could stifle Internet innovation as companies with deeper pockets can pay more to push their (possibly subpar) material to consumers first. You could argue that’s the nature of competition — the manufacturer with more funds can hire a larger workforce to produce a product line.

But the Internet has been a relatively level playing field since providers had agreed not to leave traffic speeds alone — and you could argue that’s the reason some small blogs and social networks have taken to the stratosphere.

“The point of a network neutrality rule is to prevent big companies from dividing the Internet between them,” Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, told The New York Times. “The fate of the Internet is too large a matter to be decided by negotiations involving two companies, even companies as big as Verizon and Google.”

Heightening the “oh really?” factor of the report, both Verizon and Google are in closed-door negotiations with the Federal Communications Commission over Chariman Julius Genachowski’s proposed rules on regulating Internet carriers’ handing of web traffic.

The FCC’s authority over broadband services was restricted by a federal appeals court decision in April in regards to a case in which provider Comcast was blocking peer-to-peer sharing sites. The court ruled that the FCC didn’t have authority over providers’ decisions to block or slow content and applications or give favors to others. I imagine the atmosphere at those negotiations is going to be rather chilly.

Certainly other providers and large content creators will strike up deals in the wake of this announcement. How do you see this development affecting the interactive advertising industry?


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