Opening salvo in Net neutrality battle

Verizon slams Google for taking a free ride on telecom's infrastructure. As battle lines are drawn again on new media-old media lines, will Congress act against innovators?
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor

Congressional hearings into net  neutrality open today. Yesterday, at a conference celebrating 10 years of the Telecommunications Act, Verizon came out swinging against Google, pretty neatly drawing the lines between the telecoms and cables on the one hand and giant Internet companies on the other, the Washingto Post reports.

"The network builders are spending a fortune constructing and maintaining the networks that Google intends to ride on with nothing but cheap servers," [Verizon deputy general counsel  John] Thorne told a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. "It is enjoying a free lunch that should, by any rational account, be the lunch of the facilities providers."

Verizon is spending billions of dollars to construct a fiber-optic network around the country for delivering high-speed Internet and cable TV services. Executives at other telecom companies, such as AT&T Inc. chief executive Edward E. Whitacre Jr., have suggested that Google, Yahoo Inc. and other such Internet services should have to pay fees for preferred access to consumers over such lines.

Verizon wants to knock down what it sees as regulatory roadblocks to its ability to make money from that investment. One method would be to charge providers like Google usage fees to use their networks. Another would be to give preferential network treatment to their own or affiliated content providers. Performance might be a far greater differentiating factor than content. (Would you rather watch a movie that downloads in 10 minutes or a better movie that takes more than an hour?)

In an interview with the Post Google's Vint Cerf said the telecoms want to collect tolls at the beginning, middle and end of the road.

"In the Internet world, both ends essentially pay for access to the Internet system, and so the providers of access get compensated by the users at each end," said Cerf, who helped develop the Internet's basic communications protocol. "My big concern is that suddenly access providers want to step in the middle and create a toll road to limit customers' ability to get access to services of their choice even though they have paid for access to the network in the first place."

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