Business - Written by on Monday, December 15, 2008 23:46 - 0 Comments

Google’s Net Neutrality: Lip-service or WSJ Sound and Fury?

The Wall Street Journal posted a pithy article about Google that made the front page of Monday’s edition. There’s also been a little back-and-forth in the blogosphere from the Wired blogs and Google’s Policy Blog (to be fair, it’s been more back than forth).

The article in the WSJ argues that Google’s not-so-new practice of using edge-servers—servers that are closer to dense user populations—as part of their content delivery network is an overture against their pro-net neutrality stance. According to Wired, these edge-servers are co-located at ISPs near their users (which would logically mean major urban centres), which improves the performance of Google’s sites (like YouTube). The WSJ contends that this faster access these edge-servers provide is a breach of net neutrality, as its only for Google content.

Richard Whitt fired back at the WSJ article saying that it missed the point: Google is doing a service by speeding its content to its users, and that they’re not blocking any other content providers from doing the same. The WSJ article also argues that these practices essentially give Google “they’re own fast track to the web”. Wired fired back with a more appropriate analogy, likening Google’s servers to free car washes near their users. I don’t like that one so much, because it implies that it’s for everyone. Really, the speed-up is for Google content. So how does this analogy sound: “It’s like a Audi Roadside Assistance. You’ve got to drive an Audi to get it, but it’s not preventing any Toyota drivers from access to their own Roadside Service.” How does that fit?

I have to agree with both Wired and Mr. Whitt on the unnecessarily alarmist tone the WSJ article took while accusing Google. The WSJ also seemed to spread the idea that equality on the Internet was losing some of its most fervent supporters in Larry Lessig, Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Again, Wired has done a nice job of exposing those statements as either speculation or as untrue.

I’m just a little floored at how off-base the WSJ article seems, and it looks more like sound and fury than substantiated narrative. Any readers have any thoughts when they read the WSJ article? Or is net neutrality not as cut-and-dried as Google makes it out to be?



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