ADVERTISING BROKER Google is in private talks with Verizon to monetise the priority of traffic handled by the US telecoms giant.
The New York Times is reporting that the two sides are nearing an agreement that would see Google renege on its net neutrality stance. The newspaper said that its sources were only able to disclose that an agreement could be announced as soon as next week.
Net neutrality has become a political issue, with the FCC engaged in rule-making and under intense lobbying pressure from numerous companies including the major US broadband Internet service providers and big media companies arguing for 'self-regulation', that is, no FCC regulation.
On the other side have been Internet companies like Google, many technology companies and well known network engineers such as Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf, supporting regulations to maintain the free, open and egalitarian Internet. The term 'net neutrality' proposes that all Internet traffic, irrespective of source or destination, should be treated equally by carriers.
Google has publicly voiced its support for net neutrality in the past, however if such a deal with Verizon goes through it might mean a complete reversal of Google's position and perhaps open the floodgates for other content providers to strike similar deals.
One fear is that if content providers pay for red carpet treatment on networks, the additional costs will be passed on to customers in pay-per-view programming similar to that of cable TV networks, and higher bills.
Talking at the Techonomy conference, Google CEO Eric Schmidt confirmed that the company was in talks with Verizon, saying, "We have been talking to Verizon for a long time about trying to get an agreement on what the definition of net neutrality is." What Schmidt alluded to was prioritisation between different types of traffic, which is known as quality of service (QoS) management.
According to Schmidt there is confusion between the two, and judging from the NYT article, he's not wrong. "It's OK to discriminate across different types. There is general agreement with Verizon and Google on this issue." As for service agreements pertaining to wired and wireless services, well that's a matter for the FCC, according to Schmidt.
It would be surprising to see a company like Google, which tries hard to promote a responsible corporate image, bowing to the demands of greedy telecoms operators. It is far more likely that Google, the firm behind Youtube, is angling for a deal that will see content such as video treated with higher priority than other types of data. µ
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