Have The Big Internet Companies Turned Their Back On Net Neutrality?
from the that's-what-you-get dept
In general, I side pretty strongly with Tim Lee’s recent net neutrality paper suggesting that we shouldn’t rush into net neutrality legislation that is likely to have unintended consequences — but at the same time, we shouldn’t downplay the importance of a neutral end-to-end internet. One of the key points of his paper was that the net neutrality battle, as portrayed in the press, was quite misleading. It has never really been about “internet companies” vs. “telcos.” And, this point becomes especially important for consumers who value neutrality, who mostly lined up behind the big internet companies on the assumption they would fight hard to protect net neutrality.
However, as the Wall Street Journal is noting, it seems like many of those big internet companies that were strong supporters of net neutrality are now moving away from that position, and some may be going in completely the opposite direction. In fact, the article highlights (without any named sources… so…) that Google has been busy negotiating preferential traffic deals with various internet providers, such that it would get to place its own servers on their premises to give users a faster route to Google’s servers. Google’s only comment was to deny that this would violate net neutrality concepts, though some might disagree. On the whole, I’d have to agree that this doesn’t appear to violate network neutrality rules, as it’s more like Google setting up its own private Akamai-like CDN, and, as we’ve explained before, a CDN does not violate neutrality.
So, to be clear, it looks like the WSJ is blowing this totally out of proportion when it comes to the Google/net neutrality angle. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t raise other important questions for those who line up behind the big internet companies in the expectation that Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo will fight various fights for them. The article details how each one of those companies has stepped back from the fight in recent days, and even have been doing deals with telcos that are perhaps on that fuzzy border of a non-neutral internet.
In some ways, this is similar to the point we’ve been making in some other areas, where people and companies, who used to rely on Google’s legal team to fight their battles, now need to realize that Google is no longer the defender of Silicon Valley. While the company used to take the stance that what was good for the internet user overall would be good for Google in the long term, in the last year or so, the company has increasingly made decisions that go against that principle. Instead, it’s done a number of deals that allow it to leverage its cash reserves to make life more difficult for others, but allow Google to protect itself.
So, even if Google isn’t really backing away from net neutrality right now, given its other actions recently, people need to increasingly realize that Google no longer always views “what’s good for internet users is good for Google,” and should plan accordingly.