Google stands by net neutrality promise

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Google stands by net neutrality promise

Chicago (IL) – Google quickly reacted to a story published by the Wall Street Journal this morning, alleging that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are engaging in activity that violates previous net neutrality promises. However, Google conceded that it has “non-exclusive” edge caching agreements in place that positively impact the performance of its websites and lowers the network cost for Internet Service Providers.

Google’s Washington Telecom and Media Counsel Richard Whitt was not happy about this morning’s Wall Street Journal report on net neutrality and the indication that Google may be backing out of a previous net neutrality promise by throwing money at ISPs in exchange for preferential bandwidth treatment.  According to Whitt, Google stands by its net neutrality promise, but admitted that Google in fact works with ISPs to lower bandwidth cost through a concept called edge caching.

There is a disagreement whether edge caching in fact violates net neutrality and Whitt calls such a belief a “myth”. However, it really depends on the viewpoint whether net neutrality is violated or not and Google may be walking on thin ice.

Edge caching relates to the “colocation of servers” in the facility of an ISP. Such servers can improve the web performance by “temporary storage of frequently accessed data on servers that are located close to end users.” Since Google pays for these servers and since they are located at ISP facilities, some may interpret such a strategy as paying for improved performance – performance Google would not get otherwise.

However, Google claims that other companies such as Akamai, Limelight, and Amazon’s Cloudfront provide local caching services and that “Google and many other Internet companies also deploy servers of their own around the world.” According to Whitt, such solutions “help broadband providers by minimizing the need to send traffic outside of their networks and reducing congestion on the Internet’s backbones. In fact, caching represents one type of innovative network practice encouraged by the open Internet.”

He defended edge caching by describing a YouTube example and explained that the strategy “reduces the provider’s bandwidth costs since the same video wouldn’t have to be transmitted multiple times. We’ve always said that broadband providers can engage in activities like colocation and caching, so long as they do so on a non-discriminatory basis.”

Since edge caching does not mean that ISPs “leverage their unilateral control over consumers’ broadband connections to hamper user choice, competition, and innovation,” the concept of net neutrality is not violated. In a way this concepts reflects Google choosing to pay for performance enhancements through strategic server placements rather than ISPs asking for a cash payment. The outcome may be similar in both cases: Extra money will deliver extra performance.

A fierce debate whether edge caching in fact means a violation of net neutrality on the Internet. If you help an ISP to save cost, those that mean that you pay for bandwidth?

While it may be considered a form of payment, it needs to be mentioned that edge caching is not a new concept and has been employed by large corporations for almost a decade. Proponents of edge caching claim that the technology has been a driver of innovation, allowing users to take advantage of high-bandwidth services they otherwise may not have been able to receive. But then, of course, only companies with sufficient cash can effectively engage in edge caching.

What do you think? Does Google violate the concept of net neutrality? Let us know by writing a comment below.