Tiered Internet: Google/Verizon Deal/No Deal

Google and Verizon have almost completed a tiered Internet agreement that would allow Verizon to give delivery of some Internet content priority over the delivery of other content. For a price, of course. (Or have they? See below.)

For example, if Google wanted to make sure that some YouTube content was presented properly, it could pay for priority transmission.

At present, delivery of packets on the Internet is done on a first come, first serve basis by all servers; this net neutrality is regarded by many people as essential to the free use of the Internet.

A spokesman for Verizon said that the company was still engaged in the larger talks to reach a consensus at the F.C.C. and declined to comment on other negotiations. A spokeswoman for Google also declined to comment. While a deal between Google and Verizon would affect only those two companies, it could sway the opinions of lawmakers, many of whom have questioned the wisdom of the F.C.C.’s plans to oversee broadband service.

At issue for consumers is how the companies that provide the pipeline to the Internet will ultimately direct traffic on their system, and how quickly consumers are able to gain access to certain Web content.
(From Google and Verizon Near Deal on Web Pay Tiers, New York Times [08/04/2010])

However, in a report published today, both companies denied that they were close to an agreement that would speed up selected online content.

Verizon said in a statement that the article is "mistaken" and fundamentally misunderstands the company's purpose.

"Our goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation," the statement said. "To suggest this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect."

Times spokesperson Diane McNulty said the newspaper stood by its reporting, which is based on information from sources in a position to know about the conversations.

"Google's comment about the New York Times story refutes something the Times story didn't say," she said.

Google earlier strongly denied the Times story.

"We remain as committed as we always have been to an open Internet," said spokeswoman Mistique Cano. "The New York Times is quite simply wrong. We have not had any conversations with Verizon about paying for carriage of Google or YouTube traffic."
(From Google, Verizon Deny Tiered-Web Deal Report, Dow Jones Newswires [08/05/2010])

The earliest reference I remember to the idea that some network traffic should be given priority over other traffic - a tiered Internet - is in The Shockwave Rider, a 1975 novel by John Brunner.

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