Updated: Google has reportedly approached network providers to get a so-called fast lane for its content over the Internet, according to the Wall Street Journal. Google shot the Journal story down and said it was merely looking at co-locating content to speed delivery time--also known as caching.
The Journal vs. Google spat is notable since the search giant historically had been one of the biggest proponents of network neutrality--the concept that all Internet traffic is created equally.
Google Inc. 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.
From there, the Journal looks at the ramifications on network neutrality and also notes that Google wouldn't be able to cut a deal with cable and phone companies without raising a ruckus. In fact, the report was a little hard to believe from the beginning. Of course, Google would love preferential treatment for a price, but would it really want to get regulators all wound up?
Keep in mind that regulators are already worried about Google's power. That's why the Yahoo ad deal was shot down. Those regulator worries would grow exponentially if Google cut deals with pipe providers.
Update: Google has shot down the Journal's take. In a blog, Richard Whitt, Google's Washington Telecom and Media Counsel, said:
Google has offered to "colocate" caching servers within broadband providers' own facilities; this reduces the provider's bandwidth costs since the same video wouldn't have to be transmitted multiple times. We've always said that broadband providers can engage in activities like colocation and caching, so long as they do so on a non-discriminatory basis.
All of Google's colocation agreements with ISPs -- which we've done through projects called OpenEdge and Google Global Cache -- are non-exclusive, meaning any other entity could employ similar arrangements. Also, none of them require (or encourage) that Google traffic be treated with higher priority than other traffic. In contrast, if broadband providers were to leverage their unilateral control over consumers' connections and offer colocation or caching services in an anti-competitive fashion, that would threaten the open Internet and the innovation it enables.
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.