Do Google and Verizon Really Want to Kill Net Neutrality?

The fate of the Internet hangs in the balance

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The tech blogging world is in full panic mode today following a spate of reports revealing that Google and Verizon are conspiring to kill net neutrality. The principle that Internet providers shouldn't be able to favor some Web content over others is sacred to net neutrality advocates. They fear that without certain restriction on Internet providers, the Web could one day mirror cable television, where providers charge higher costs for premium levels of service. According to The New York Times, that's precisely what Verizon and Google want to do:

Google and Verizon... are nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege.

The charges could be paid by companies, like YouTube, owned by Google, for example, to Verizon, one of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, to ensure that its content received priority as it made its way to consumers. The agreement could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users... Consumers could soon see a new, tiered system, which, like cable television, imposes higher costs for premium levels of service.

The news comes as a shock to many, since Google has long portrayed itself as an avid defender of net neutrality. Interestingly, Google and Verizon both say the Times article is "simply wrong." Who are we to believe?

  • This Could Kill Net Neutrality, writes Jared Newman at PC World: "If Google and Verizon really are conspiring to kill Net neutrality, as several reports suggest, both companies would bruise their reputations in the process...The New York Times' version is the most terrifying, claiming that Internet companies, such as Google, would be able to pay a fee to Verizon for faster delivery speeds on services like YouTube. If Verizon extended these kinds of deals to other companies, consumers could choose to pay more for these faster services in a premium package, says the Times."
  • Other Scary News  Preston Gralla at Computer World, writes: "We'll all be worse off if this deal goes through. Competition will be hurt and innovation will suffer. The New York Times also warns that if net neutrality falls by the wayside, 'Consumers could also see continually rising bills for Internet service, much as they have for cable television.'"
  • Don't Believe the New York Times, insists a Google spokeswoman speaking to PC magazine: "The New York Times is quite simply wrong. 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." David Fish, speaking on behalf of Verizon Wireless concurs: "The NYT article regarding conversations between Google and Verizon is mistaken.  It fundamentally misunderstands our purpose. As we said in our earlier FCC filing, our goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation. To suggest this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect."
  • Don't Believe Google, counters Steve Titch at the Technology Liberation Front: "Google’s public policy side has been left out of the loop before, so let’s take that denial with a grain of salt. The Times and the Journal seem to have enough detail to suggest this is not something made up out of whole cloth."
  • Let's Wait and Let the Cards Fall, writes Rosa Golijan at Gizmodo: "Even if Verizon and Google come to such an odd agreement, they'll still have to deal with the FCC before anything can happen, so let's not panic just yet."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.