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Why Google Isn’t Going to Pay for Faster Content Delivery

The Web giant is more interested in an open internet than a tiered system.
August 5, 2010

I was surprised to read in today’s New York Times that Verizon and Google are on the verge of a deal to allow content creators to pay for special treatment online. The article claimed:

The charges could be paid by companies, like YouTube, owned by Google, for example, to Verizon, one of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, to ensure that its content received priority as it made its way to consumers. The agreement could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users.

It seemed like a strange move for Google. The company has previously criticized efforts to pass legislation that would end net neutrality.

Indeed, hours later there were denials from both Verizon and Google. Verizon’s statement, attributed to executive director of media relations David Fish, is a bit obtuse:

The NYT article regarding conversations between Google and Verizon is mistaken. It 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 explanation of Verizon’s goal remains murky, but it’s clear that the company didn’t like the article.

Here’s Google’s denial, posted in the Twitter stream of its public policy team:

@NYTimes is wrong. We’ve not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet.

It’s possible I’ve been taken in by Google’s sunshine-filled talk about open Internet standards, but in this case I believe these denials. Google’s not afraid to take an advantage and press it, but I don’t think straight payola is the company’s style.

Google definitely wants the Internet to get faster–see any number of initiatives, including Chrome, Fiber, and the experimental protocol SPDY. But I doubt they’d pay Verizon anything to speed up delivery of YouTube content. It’s more like Google to take that money and hire a bunch of engineers to figure out how to speed up YouTube with a new algorithm or protocol.

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