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Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo may be going to the dark side and quietly turning their backs on net neutrality, according to some reports. Others, like Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig are more publicly embracing their fall, admitting they favor a laned internet.  (Source: LucasArts)
Google remains a vocal supporter of net neutrality for now, but its actions may speak louder than its words

In the late 90s and early 2000s internet service providers, saddled with traffic increasing at a rate of 50 percent a year, and customers' never ending thirst for faster connections cooked up a clever way to deliver faster content while making money.  Rather than the classic internet serving setup, which ISPs liken to "dumb pipes", they would smarten the system, charging web site owners premium fees if they wanted faster serving.

However, the scheme's dark side was quickly revealed as people came to realize that ISPs were like to cut speeds on the non-premium traffic, limiting people's access to smaller websites and creating a digital bus lane.  Big companies like Microsoft, Google, and others as well as celebrities like Moby blasted the move and took their fight to Congress.  Net neutrality laws were passed banning such preferential treatment.

Now some of the ISP have warmed up to the Federal Communication Commission's net neutrality measures, with AT&T and Verizon agreeing that the net neutrality is working.

Ironically just as the ISPs begin to come around, support for the movement may be drying up among its biggest corporate proponents.

Yahoo and Microsoft, which long had a net neutrality alliance together, announced that they were dropping the alliance.  While the move could be seen as a result of the increased frustrations between the two firms, both firms have also softened their stance on net neutrality in recent weeks, expressing, according to some sources that they might be open to the idea of internet "priority lanes".

However, the most shocking fall of all may be coming from net neutrality chief Google.  Google has approached telecoms with a proposal called OpenEdge, which will involve Google paying them a fee to place its own servers at their sites, to deliver faster connections to Google sites such as its search, YouTube, and Picassa.  Sounds rather familiar to something, eh?

Yes, Google's plan sounds remarkably like a direct violation of net neutrality, as pointed out in a report by the Wall Street Journal.  With its plans Google is clearly saying "do as we say, not as we do" according to many skeptics.  According to the WSJ report even telecoms were alarmed by Google's proposal.  They told Google they were concerned that they feared its plan would violate FCC laws and regulations on net neutrality.  Said one cable executive familiar with the talks, "If we did this, Washington would be on fire."

Speaking of Washington, a key proponent of net neutrality, Lawrence Lessig, an Internet law professor at Stanford University, has also turned his back on net neutrality.  Professor Lessig, a close friend of President-elect Barack Obama, is rumored to be under consideration to be the next FCC chief.  In an interview he recently remarked, "There are good reasons to be able to prioritize traffic.  If everyone had to pay the same rates for postal service, than you wouldn't be able to differentiate between sending a greeting card to your grandma versus sending an overnight letter to your lawyer."

If he is put in such a position he and his new stance may come into direct conflict with the President-elect and be an early test of the President-elect's determination to stick with his beliefs.  Barack Obama has pledged to maintain net neutrality as part of his tech agenda.  He had said during a campaign speech in Google's hometown of Mountain View, "The Internet is perhaps the most open network in history, and we have to keep it that way.  I will take a back seat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality."

However, in the end even Obama may be swayed if his close supporters like Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, change their minds.

For now Google is insisting it still supports net neutrality.  It blasted back against negative reports about OpenEdge, insisting it is not violating net neutrality and is doing nothing wrong.  It points out the use of Edge servers is already done through companies that charge expensive fees to speed up traffic, through content delivery networks (CDNs) such as Akamai, Limelight and others.  It insists this practice is not tantamount to a violation of net neutrality.

Whether you believe Google or not, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the winds seem to be shifting and net neutrality seems to be losing its base of support.  Where this road will lead remains to be seen, but it appears that many former net neutrality stalwarts are turning to the dark side at a surprising rate.

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I don't get the paranoia...
By MatthiasF on 12/18/2008 1:27:57 PM , Rating: 2
How is Google adding edge servers to major ISP's networks a violation of net neutrality?

By having cache servers inside the ISP's networks, any hot videos or picasa galleries only need to be transferred to the ISP's network once, which in turn reduce traffic on the internet at large.

They're not getting a preferential line from the ISP or anything, just a distributed proxy system.

Limelight already has a system like this that's in use for Netflix, Microsoft and such. Akamai has something similar in use for Yahoo and Microsoft as well.

RE: I don't get the paranoia...
By FITCamaro on 12/18/2008 4:33:04 PM , Rating: 2
I'm with you. This does nothing to give them a priority access lane to the internet. It merely makes accessing their sites faster because you don't have to go as far to get the data.

RE: I don't get the paranoia...
By GaryJohnson on 12/18/2008 9:10:14 PM , Rating: 2
The whole foundation of this "Google is now anti-neutrality" argument seems to be the: Said one cable executive familiar with the talks, "If we did this, Washington would be on fire." quote.

Now the question I have is, who is this guy, and what the heck is he talking about?

If you look at the FCC's four net-neutrality 'principles' (which are far from being enforcable laws), they all start the same: 'consumers are entitle to..." I don't see how google's plans do anything to hinder consumer entitlement.

RE: I don't get the paranoia...
By tastyratz on 12/19/2008 10:24:38 AM , Rating: 2
Start to get the paranoia.

This is not just some caching system. The ISP's already VERY much use a GIGANTIC caching system for all of the most popular content.

Don't confuse this as a friendly way to "help" speed up the internet for people and lower network congestion. This is to ensure google content always loads fast - regardless of whether or not its cached for being the most popular content.

This is EXACTLY what people should be concerned with for net neutrality. The only difference is it doesn't YET have packet prioritization.

Is there REALLY a difference between an ISP offering a premium service which involves charging extra for faster traffic... or an ISP essentially accepting a bribe to do it (like this)
The only difference is the initiator... and I personally do NOT want to see this deck of cards drop while they get their foot in the door.

Read and become a member of - it will be a real eye opener for you.

RE: I don't get the paranoia...
By Gzus666 on 12/19/2008 11:00:09 AM , Rating: 2
It is a cache service you psycho, relax. It's not like they are flagging packets for priority.

RE: I don't get the paranoia...
By bfonnes on 12/19/2008 10:06:17 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, this gigantic caching system is called GOOGLE and they go by the name of GOOGLE and they have millions of computers that do this already. Seriously, they don't really need this. I agree. I don't see how this changes net neutrality. It is just more of Google burning through their large supply of cash at stuff. If you remember how Google works it goes by the popularity of a web site by how many web sites link to it with PageRank software. Although Google tries to be a media company, they're really not. Think about the argument you're making really, though. When has google ever loaded slowly? I bet if I loaded it on a 286 with a 28.8 kbps modem, it would load just as fast as it does now. Sure, YouTube videos would be painfully slow, but do you really need to watch those anyway? Seriously... What if all of a sudden we woke up tomorrow and there were no YouTube, would we all of a sudden plunge into the stone age? I think not! Maybe we should be thinking more about what our kids are actually doing on YouTube than worrying about creating paranoia about Google violating net neutrality. Give me a break! There are a lot more things that will keep Google from being a media company, including it's own bad bets, (just like any corporation). They haven't tried to buy a TV station, which clearly, they could do with all the equity they have. They have the vision to see that the many examples of tech companies trying to become media companies hasn't worked, aka AOL-Time Warner, also, ala MSNBC. Do they really want to become a 3rd?

Wait a Minute.
By Gzus666 on 12/19/2008 8:58:48 AM , Rating: 3
He posted this once before, then when someone called him out on it being BS he took it down. Now it is back up again with the same BS?

RE: Wait a Minute.
By GaryJohnson on 12/22/2008 5:16:30 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder if the original is in Google's cache...

By Nirach on 12/19/2008 5:58:55 AM , Rating: 2
If Net Neutrality disappears because people get greedy, I'm going to be setting fire to things.

RE: .
By rtrski on 12/19/2008 12:45:38 PM , Rating: 2
/begin mutter

"I'll...I'll...burn down the building....

(I want my stapler.)"

/end mutter

By Xenoterranos on 12/19/2008 4:49:06 PM , Rating: 2
The spin on this is pure rubbish. Google is massive, and generated tons more traffic than anyone else, period. I don't see any problem with giant factories building power stations on their land, or sea world having it's own water treatment plant; why would it be so terrible for Google to have what amounts to a mini-node on the internet?

(Honestly, they should just cut the middle man and become their own damned ISP already. At least buy themselves a piece of the backbone or something.)

RE: Ribbish?
By Gzus666 on 12/19/2008 5:27:48 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. In fact their idea should cut back on unneeded traffic and help everyone, including the ISPs out. They are even footing the bill, I don't see why everyone is worked up.

Only one thing to say....
By Etsp on 12/18/2008 12:18:02 PM , Rating: 3
<luke>NOO! It isn't true! IT'S IMPOSSIBLE!!!</luke>

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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