Google: We still back Net neutrality

Reports say that Google and Verizon are close to a deal to pay for priority service

Google today denied reports that it is in talks with Verizon for a deal that could undermine Net neutrality.

According to reports in today's Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, Google and Verizon, both major online players, are close to finalizing an agreement that would have Verizon speeding some online content more quickly than other content if the content's creators pay for it. YouTube, which is owned by Google, could greatly benefit by having its bandwidth-heavy videos get priority treatment.

Google, however, told Computerworld this morning that there is no basis to the reports.

"The New York Times is quite simply wrong," wrote Mistique Cano, a Google spokeswoman, in an e-mail. "We have not had any conversations with Verizon about paying for carriage of Google traffic. We remain as committed as we always have been to an open Internet."

Google, however, has not denied being in discussions with Verizon and other Internet companies about Net neutrality issues in general. Verizon also confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that it has been in ongoing talks with Google and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

Discussions aren't something new between Google and Verizon.

Last October, Google CEO Eric Schmidt wrote in a blog post that it's critical that Google engage in ongoing discussions with Verizon on Net neutrality.

"Both of our businesses rely on each other. So we believe it's appropriate to discuss how we ensure that consumers can get the information, products, and services they want online, encourage investment in advanced networks and ensure the openness of the Web around the world," wrote Schmidt. "We're ready to engage in this important policy discussion."

What Google is denying is that executives are discussing paying for prioritized service.

"If they were discussing that, Google might have to get a whole new motto," said Carl Howe, an analyst at Yankee Group Research, referring to the company's well-known slogan, "Don't be evil." "What I think is happening is that they're having a dialogue. I think they're trying to find ways to work together where everyone goes home happy."

Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group, said that if the government fails to act on the issue in a timely manner, it might force companies like Google and Verizon to try to hammer out their own issues.

"Net neutrality is a mess of conflicting definitions and opposing goals," added Enderle. "The likely reason the two companies are talking is because there has been little real progress and the core problem of inadequate performance is simply not being addressed in a timely manner. The talks between Google and Verizon are a symptom of the problem of a government that is failing to act and is internally conflicted."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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