The last mile ISPs, such as Comcast and Verizon, may be dead set against net neutrality, but many other technology companies, such as Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft, favor net neutrality. Now, Google, which also supports net neutrality, is putting its network where its mouth is by offering free Internet peering over its Google Fibre network to media providers and content delivery networks (CDNs).
In the almost two years since Google started bringing its 1 gigabit per second fibre networks to users in Kansas City, the company has expanded its last mile network to Austin, TX and Provo Utah. Google now plans to bring Google Fibre to Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, Phoenix, Portland, Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, and San Jose. Google is still a long way from being a national ISP, but that seems to be one direction they're exploring.
Besides getting really fast Internet, users in those cities can also expect to get fast access to Netflix and other video content providers. Google Director of Network Engineering Jeffrey Burgan explained, "We also partner with content providers (like YouTube, Netflix, and Akamai) to make the rest of your video’s journey shorter and faster. (This doesn't involve any deals to prioritize their video ‘packets’ over others or otherwise discriminate among Internet traffic — we don't do that.)"
Burgan continued: "If the connections between the content provider and our network are slow or congested, that will slow down your access to content, no matter how fast your connection is. So that your video doesn’t get caught up in this possible congestion, we invite content providers to hook up their networks directly to ours. This is called ‘peering,’ and it gives you a more direct connection to the content that you want."
Google does more than just let Netflix and content delivery networks such as Akamai use their section of the Internet for free. These media businesses, Burgan explained, "can ‘collocate’ their equipment in our Fiber facilities. What does that mean for you? Usually, when you go to Netflix and click on the video that you want to watch, your request needs to travel to and from the closest Netflix data center, which might be a round-trip of hundreds or thousands of miles. Instead, Netflix has placed their own servers within our facilities (in the same place where we keep our own video-on-demand content). Because the servers are closer to where you live, your content will get to you faster and should be a higher quality."
This deal is even sweeter than it sounds. Burgan added, "We give companies like Netflix and Akamai free access to space and power in our facilities and they provide their own content servers. We don’t make money from peering or collocation; since people usually only stream one video at a time, video traffic doesn’t bog down or change the way we manage our network in any meaningful way—so why not help enable it?"
So why doesn't Google charge for these services? "We also don’t charge because it’s really a win-win-win situation. It’s good for content providers because they can deliver really high-quality streaming video to their customers. For example, because Netflix collocated their servers along our network, their customers can access full 1080p HD and, for those who own a 4K TV, Netflix in Ultra HD 4K. It’s good for us because it saves us money (it’s easier to transport video traffic from a local server than it is to transport it thousands of miles). But most importantly, we do this because it gives Fiber users the fastest, most direct route to their content," concluded Burgan.
Google's stance isn't new. Google has been supporting net neutrality since at least 2006. It's nice to seeing them backing their stance with action. Now, if we can only get everyone — including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) — on board, maybe net neutrality will have a chance of staying the law of the land.