For the uninitiated, net neutrality refers to the idea that content providers on the web should not be allowed to pay the cable and phone carrier companies, pipe providers, for an Internet fast lane to deliver information to customers. Google is one of the most prominent and successful content providers, delivering its search-engine results to users and, in the process, its revenue-generating advertisements. Google has been a strong advocate for net neutrality in the past but now seems to be cutting deals with the carriers for preferential fast-lane access. Below is an excerpt from the story from the Wall Street Journal (see: Google Wants Its Own Fast Track on the Web) with boldface emphasis mine:
Google...has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content....Google has traditionally been one of the loudest advocates of equal network access for all content providers. At risk is a principle known as network neutrality: Cable and phone companies that operate the data pipelines are supposed to treat all traffic the same -- nobody is supposed to jump the line. But phone and cable companies argue that Internet content providers should share in their network costs, particularly with Internet traffic growing by more than 50% annually, according to estimates. Carriers say that to keep up with surging traffic, driven mainly by the proliferation of online video, they need to boost revenue to upgrade their networks. Charging companies for fast lanes is one option....But Lawrence Lessig, an Internet law professor at Stanford University and an influential proponent of network neutrality, recently shifted gears by saying at a conference that content providers should be able to pay for faster service.
It should be pointed out that Google has demonstrated a willingness in the past to negotiate with the carriers of Internet traffic in order to provide customers with content. A case-in-point dating back to 2005 was Google's investment in AOL Time Warner (see: Time Warner's AOL and Google to Expand Strategic Alliance). The Google IPO had occurred just previously in 2004 and the company was not the colossus that we know today. That 2005 deal on the part of Google was a critical factor in its continuing growth.
I readily admit to being an avid fan of all of the various products and services provided by Google. I, as well as the majority of you, am also accustomed to lightning-fast Google searches. I would hate to see a degradation of the time required for a web search. Lessig's argument that the content providers should be able to pay for faster service also makes perfect sense to me. By the way, don't expect the content/carrier tensions and competition to subside any time soon. This will continue to be an ongoing battle. Moreover, I have no idea how we will define "content" a year or two from now but I also suspect that it will be greatly different than our concept of today.