Monday, December 15, 2008
Google Want to Go First Class
The Wall Street Journal reports that Google has approached major service providers with the proposal to create a preferred fast service for their content. Google's proposed arrangement with network providers, would site Google servers within the service provider’s network.
To date the principle of network neutrality has been applied enabling all traffic the same service, so what has changed and is this a wise move? The concept of network neutrality originated with the phone business where they were prohibited from giving any public phone call preference in how quickly it was connected.
Service providers see a surge in demand driven by online video and other resource hungry applications and are now looking at how they can boost revenue and upgrade their networks. The major US phone companies have announced they intended to create new fast lanes on the Internet and charge content companies a toll to use it. They claimed Internet companies had been getting a free ride.
Charging for first class is one option and network neutrality which was once so fervently defended by the likes of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo seems to have quietly slipped of their agendas. Both Microsoft and Yahoo have withdrawn from a coalition formed two years ago to protect network neutrality. They now line up with others such as Amazon and like those who expect first class travel do not want to queue with the rest.
If Google and the other omnivores succeed in negotiating preferential service then we would enter into a new paradigm – internet class wars and the principles of equal rights for all will have been quietly bought treatment, the Internet could become a place where wealthy companies get fast out. So the consumer will get clear differential of service and response based on that paid for. New entrants will be effectively strangled at birth and strong established players such as those mentioned will buy a free rein.
Interestingly Barack Obama has pledged a commitment to network neutrality. "The Internet is perhaps the most open network in history, and we have to keep it that way," he told Google employees a year ago. "I will take a back seat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality." "Once providers start to give privilege to some Web sites and applications over others, then the smaller voices get squeezed out and then we all lose."
However Lawrence Lessig, who is tipped to head the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the telecommunications industry, is for a tiered approached to service. "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."
Finally it may not be just the obvious major content players who would win but also the service providers who will also be able to enjoy a ‘free ride’ or upgrade to first class.