Google denies plan of ditching net neutrality

Google has denied that it is working on a plan to speed up the delivery of its own content, which could end the way that all traffic on the internet is treated the same.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal Google has approached cable and phone companies in the US with a proposal to create a fast lane -- for its own content.

This would mean an end to the current way the web operates -- all content delivered over the internet is treated the same.

The move represents an about face for Google, which has previously been one of the big defenders of equal treatment for all, known as net neutrality.

Likewise cable and phone companies burdened with exponential growth in internet traffic driven chiefly by video are in favour of creating a premium fast lane for content whereby content owners would pay for faster delivery.

This would allow the cable and phone firms to upgrade their networks to deal with the increasing amounts of traffic.

The WSJ says no deal has currently been done as cable operators are worried about violating Federal Communications Commission guidelines on network neutrality.

Microsoft and Yahoo! have already pulled out of a coalition formed two years ago to protect network neutrality, adding to the momentum that could lead to a two-tier internet.

It would result in companies that can afford to pay delivering their content quickly to users while other sites would flounder as traffic dries up.

One of the ways this is achieved is through what is known as "edge caching" which is frequently accessed content, temporary stored on servers that are located close to end users.

Critics have said this too violates the idea of net neutrality as it favours certain content, YouTube for instance, over other content.

It could in affect kill competition on the internet creating a first and third world digital scenario.

In response Google called the article in the Wall Street Journal confused and said it was based on a misunderstanding of the way in which the open internet works.

Richard Whitt, Washington telecom and media counsel for Google posted on the search giant's blog that the firm's commitment to net neutrality remains as strong as ever: "One of the first posts I wrote for this blog last summer tried to define what we at Google mean when we talk about the concept of net neutrality.

"Broadband providers should not be allowed to prioritize traffic based on the source, ownership or destination of the content.

"As I noted in that post, broadband providers should have the flexibility to employ network upgrades, such as edge caching. They shouldn't be able to leverage their unilateral control over consumers' broadband connections to hamper user choice, competition, and innovation."

He said that it was a myth that edge caching violates network neutrality and said the article was based on this misunderstanding.

"Edge caching is a common practice used by ISPs and application and content providers in order to improve the end user experience...Google and many other internet companies also deploy servers of their own around the world.

"By bringing YouTube videos and other content physically closer to end users, site operators can improve page load times for videos and web pages."

Furthermore, he said that these solutions help broadband providers by minimizing the need to send traffic outside of their networks and thus reduce internet backbone congestion and because of that caching represents one type of innovative network practice encouraged by the open internet.

He said that Google has offered to "co-locate" caching servers within broadband providers' own facilities to help reduce the provider's bandwidth costs as the same video would not have to be transmitted multiple times.

"We've always said that broadband providers can engage in activities like co-location and caching, so long as they do so on a non-discriminatory basis.

"Despite the hyperbolic tone and confused claims in Monday's Journal story, I want to be perfectly clear about one thing -- Google remains strongly committed to the principle of net neutrality, and we will continue to work with policymakers in the years ahead to keep the Internet free and open.

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