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The Wall Street Journal gets spun

Posted by Graeme in Internet,Wrong at 5:29 am on Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The Wall Street Journal seems to have been completely fooled by telecoms spin-doctors into claiming that Google, and other prominent advocates of net neutrality, have changed their views.

For those who are not familiar with the issue, net neutrality is keeping the internet a strictly open network, rather than allowing internet service providers to favour certain content.

The Wall Street Journal claims that Google wants to violate net neutrality by placing servers within telecoms companies’ networks, speeding up Google for those companies’ customers.

Google is certainly not being hypocritical. They always supported edge caching, and clearly differentiated this from prioritising some content providers traffic over others.

The claim that other advocates are softening their positions is also wrong. Lawrence Lessig has debunked claims that his views have changed.

In addition I have never come across any net neutrality advocate objecting to companies like Akamai that have been doing exactly what Google plans to for many years.

The difference is that in one case the telecoms companies are providing an additional service for the money, in the other they are double charging some providers to give one provider an artificial advantage. In addition, because edge caching does not involve giving traffic from some sources priority, it does not have the side effect of slowing down competitors services — in fact, it should help speed up the network for everyone.

Perhaps their next move would be to demand that anyone who receiving a phone call should also pay a fee to the originator’s telecoms provider?

The telecoms companies’ argument is based on the idea that their network is being used, so they should receive a fee. One could equally well argue that their networks only have value because of the content that is available, so the telcos should pay the content providers.

If apply the same principles that lie behind calling party pay billing for telephone calls, the telecoms companies should reimburse the content providers the cost of their internet connections. The current arrangement is that each party pays for their side of the connection.

Of course the latter arrangement also happens in voice telecoms. What the telecoms companies want to do with the internet is to combine the two sets of charges so that if I browse the a website: I pay my ISP, the website pays theirs, and, on top of that, the website pays an additional charge to mine.

Edit 12/12/08: The above does not make it clear that the journalists were persuaded to believe that the telcos were holding back from the deal because they were afraid of violating net neutrality rules. The telcos think that something that is common practice is against existing rules? Even though so many people do it, that providing the service is a profitable industry in itself? Really?

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