One of the most kneejerk Internet causes in recent years has been “net neutrality”–the absurd conviction that phone and cable companies who paid hundreds of billions of dollars to lay the cable that Internet data travels over shouldn’t be able to charge different rates for different tiers of data service.
From the beginning, big Internet content companies like Google have fiercely fought against this.
Now, however, Google appears to be realising that net non-neutrality would actually be a boon to business–because it can afford to pay preferential fees that other companies can’t. Microsoft, Yahoo, and others appear to be realising the same thing:
WSJ: 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.
At risk is a principle known as network neutrality: Cable and phone companies that operate the data pipelines are supposed to treat all traffic the same — nobody is supposed to jump the line.
*UPDATE: Google, Om Malik and others have rushed to say that Google’s plan–to co-locate its servers directly within the service providers’ networks–does NOT mean it has abandoned its net neutrality stance. If not, “net neutrality” has become so narrowly defined that it is a distinction without a difference.
According to both the WSJ and Google, Google wants to do something that the vast majority sites can’t afford to do–something that will make its Internet traffic treated differently than that of other sites. How is that fundamentally different from allowing carriers to offer this service directly?
FedEx charges different rates for different delivery times. Where are all the cries for “Mail Neutrality”?