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.
I'm not sure what's going on. I know there's a lot of dangerous privacy problems surrounding Google, and I'm in the midst of reading Googling Security. Still, the company has always been good on net neutrality. This strikes me as odd, although perhaps billionaire techies and telecom interests do in fact have a lot in common.
Update:: Larry Lessig disputes the article.
It is true, as the Journal reports, that I have stated that network providers should be free to charge different rates for different service -- "so long," the Journal quotes, "as the faster service at a higher price is available to anyone willing to pay it."
And Google has a blog post up.
While the reporters got some stuff wrong, the basic disagreement is real. Lessig wants networks to be able to charge content providers to use an internet fast lane, so long as that price is uniform for all content providers. This makes little sense to me. Off the top of my head, if that fast lane became really really fast (to carry, say, HDTV) and it was priced really really high, then sure, Google and iFilm and Comcast and random user Joe could all choose to pay that really high price, but in fact, this would be turning the internet into cable. Remember, if a network dedicates part of the pipe to a 'fast lane', then less of the pipe goes to the slow lane all regular internet users use. And the more profitable the fast lane, the less pipe is dedicated to the slow lane that all of us use.
I'll need to think about it and do some more research, but I don't think this is a defensible position. The internet should not be a playing field where the well-capitalized have access and everyone else has, well, whatever's left.