If true, the Father of the Internet, Vint Cerf may be reconsidering his views on net neutrality given his statement of three years ago that "a lightweight but enforceable neutrality rule is needed to ensure that the Internet continues to thrive."
The WSJ report comes as a surprise to many who believe this may prove that the 'do no evil' motto of the company is nothing more than carefully selected words. But to others, Google already has a fast lane courtesy of their countless data centers around the world.
Richard Bennett believes the plan would simply put Google on an equal footing with Akamai, who already has a footprint inside major ISP networks, and that network neutrality is nothing more than a myth.
"The Internet is not a network, it's a complex set of agreements to interconnect independently owned and operated networks in various ways. There is no standard agreement, and this story doesn't report on a new one. What it simply shows is that money buys performance in the technology space, and that should come as no surprise to anyone. Google has to do something like this to avoid being clobbered by ISP-friendly P4P as well as by Akamai.
"It is not clear how this is different from the kind of deals Akamai has for its CDN network. Of course, Google could go for preferential arrangements that mimic the deals it has cut in the wireless arena with T-Mobile, which makes it easy to access Google services on its mobile phones."
While the WSJ article points out that cable and phone companies are supposed to treat all traffic the same, and what Google is doing risks net neutrality, it also describes how Microsoft and Yahoo have already forged partnerships with the phone and cable companies. So it appears that in this instance that it's okay for Microsoft and Yahoo to get involved with providers, but Google? Not so much.
Regardless, Google has always been a huge supporter of net neutrality. In a letter to the Committee on Energy and Commerce dated November 8, 2005, Vint Cerf writes:
"Enshrining a rule that broadly permits network operators to discriminate in favor of certain kinds of services and to potentially interfere with others would place broadband operators in control of online activity. Allowing broadband providers to segment their IP offerings and reserve huge amounts of bandwidth for their own services will not give consumers the broadband Internet our country and economy need."
More recently, at the San Fran Music Tech Summit in October this year, ReadWriteWeb spoke with Google Policy Analyst Derek Slater on net neutrality, copyright and other public policy issues (video below), and once again we heard Google reiterating the importance of net neutrality:
"I spoke about net neutrality today and that's been a fundamentally core issue for us. Google's story starts in the garage; starts with two people Larry Page and Sergey Brin being able to create a search engine without having to ask ISPs permission first. Being able to innovate and put that technology out there for millions of users. And that's the story for all sorts of startups - us eBay, YouTube, Wikipedia - all started from small beginnings and grew to large enterprises"
"Net neutrality is about: what are the principles that allow that sort of innovation to thrive? How do we protect that sort of free and open innovation as the Internet moves forward? And the worry is that parties who are not really gatekeepers before ISP's may take more of a gatekeeping role and create bottlenecks to innovation."
So, what do you think? Is Google creating bottlenecks to innovation itself or is this something Google must do as suggested by Richard Bennett?
Update: In an attempt to clarify the WSJ story, Richard Whitt, Washington Telecom and Media Council, Google, wrote a blog post explaining Google's stance. You can read it here.