Screw Net Neutrality seems to be the gist of this Wall Street Journal article that’s causing a huge uproar this Monday morning. The article essentially insinuates that Google has approached some of the major phone and cable companies with a proposal for a “fast lane” so its content can be delivered expeditiously to its users. As we know Net Neutrality has been on the front burners for awhile now. Should the telcos - who own the cables and the pipeline where internet traffic flows through - be able to charge different rates for different levels of data service? Proponents of Net Neutrality including Google - which is why the WSJ piece is causing such a stink - argue that the telcos will have a monopoly on the content flow, if they are allowed to discriminate or give preferential treatment to certain types of data, based on fees paid by the content provider. The cable and phone companies on the other hand say that the cost of maintaining and upgrading the pipe line has skyrocketed due to increasing traffic and the proliferation of video content.
WSJ: Google, has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Google has traditionally been one of the loudest advocates of equal network access for all content providers.
At risk is a principle known as network neutrality: Cable and phone companies that operate the data pipelines are supposed to treat all traffic the same — nobody is supposed to jump the line.
It should be noted that Microsoft and Yahoo recently backed out of the so called Net Neutrality “consortium” and decided to “work” with the cable and phone companies instead. Perhaps Google is now realizing that it can also afford to buy a “fast lane” pass!
Google defended it’s stance on Net Neutrality by saying the WSJ story was “confused” and lacks an understanding as to how the open internet works.
Google: Some critics have questioned whether improving Web performance through edge caching — temporary storage of frequently accessed data on servers that are located close to end users — violates the concept of network neutrality. As I said last summer, this myth — which unfortunately underlies a confused story in Monday’s Wall Street Journal — is based on a misunderstanding of the way in which the open Internet works.
Edge caching is a common practice used by ISPs and application and content providers in order to improve the end user experience. Companies like Akamai, Limelight, and Amazon’s Cloudfront provide local caching services, and broadband providers typically utilize caching as part of what are known as content distribution networks (CDNs). Google and many other Internet companies also deploy servers of their own around the world.
Hmmm.. “Improving web performance thru Edge Caching …. and co-locating caching servers within the broadband providers facilities … “. If you look past the technical jargon and nuances in their response the bottom line is pretty obvious. Google wants to - because it can afford to BTW - set up servers that are physically closer to the broadband providers infrastructure, say Comcast for example. So if you’re a Comcast customer and you request a YouTube video the provider will first try to locate it on the caching server and if the video is cached they can serve it up to you quicker without consuming too much bandwidth instead of requesting the video from Google’s servers, which could take longer depending on the traffic and bandwidth. Now are they jumping ahead and bypassing the other content providers? I guess it’s up for interpretation. Yes technically they are not jumping ahead of anyone because their content is cached by the provider so they don’t have to utilize the pipeline to get the content. The flip side of the coin is smaller content providers can’t afford to setup caching servers at the broadband providers home base and therefore they are at a lesser competitive advantage.
At the end of the day Google - as any content provider would - wants to gain the competitive edge when it comes to throughput. The faster the content gets to the user the better it is for business and they have the means to make it happen. The sad part is if the “plumbing” is controlled by a few players then innovation as we know it might someday become non-existent.