One of the most amazing aspects of the internet is that, by and large, all traffic and content is treated equally. This concept is known as net neutrality, and it governs intent usage in the US. Frankly, it’s somewhat baffling that the US government and large corporations haven’t been successful in garnering more power over what takes place on the internet, but courts have been reluctant to rule in favor of regulation. But according to a report today in The New York Times, Google and Verizon have a deal in the pipeline that could change net neutrality as we know it.
The Times reports that Google and Verizon are finalizing a deal to institute a tiered service model, which would allow Verizon to stream content from some companies more quickly—for a price of course. This would allow large sites, those that need lightening-fast speed like Facebook, YouTube, to receive priority treatment. If the deal takes place, it has the potential to lead to higher service costs for internet users.
Both Google and Verizon denied claims that they were looking to institute the tier service model, saying that the Times’ article was “mistaken.” David Fish, Verizon’s executive director of media relations, had this to say in a blog post from the company:
“[The article] fundamentally misunderstands our purpose. As we said in our earlier FCC filing, our goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation. To suggest this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect.”
The net neutrality issue isn’t a new one, and policymakers have been working to develop a pragmatic way to regulate the internet for years. A court decision involving Comcast in April said that the FCC lacked the authority to govern the internet in virtually anyway. Since then, the FCC has been devising other ways to control aspects of the internet, but both Congress and private companies have shown resistance. The FCC claims they want control of broadband in order to enforce privacy laws and preserve net neutrality, as well as add service to rural areas, a cause which just received $1.2 billion from the government.
Although details about the potential deal between Google and Verizon are still scant and vague, it has effectively rekindled the debate on net neutrality. Advocates obviously espouse the fact that all websites and users have the same access to the internet, which seems fair enough. But the fact of the matter is that some sites have far more visitors and deliver more data through their network, and paying for the extra service is simply a good business and giving consumers what they need and want. By letting companies buy internet speed, however, you are effectively killing business for the sites that don’t have the capital to keep up. Feel free to voice your thoughts on net neutrality and the potential Google-Verizon deal.