Blown To Bits

The Google Anti-Net-Neutrality-Hoax Won’t Go Away

Sunday, December 21st, 2008 by Harry Lewis

Last week’s Wall Street Journal Story claiming that Google was pulling a double-cross on its pro-Network-Neutrality posture has spawned a series of imitators. Today the Boston Herald voices its editorial opinion that Google has been caught in red-handed hypocrisy, and therefore the whole Net Neutrality idea ought to be abandoned. Let the unregulated free market work its wonders and all will be well.

In fact Google explained itself quite well on the morning the WSJ story appeared. Net Neutrality is the principle that the Internet should treat all packets should be treated equally, not favoring those with a particular source or destination. What Google was proposing is called edge caching, locating its servers at points in the network where they can reduce Internet traffic to deliver the same content. It’s not a new idea — lots of companies make a nice living doing it.

Here is some of the Herald’s analogizing:

The FCC should repeal its neutrality policies. The historical accident that telephone companies were organized to connect calls in the order received should not prevent high-value Internet services from being paid for and provided separately from other services. Telephone companies early on leased private lines for exclusive use of customers willing to pay extra. Telegraph companies also leased private lines and charged for telegrams on the public wires at various rates.

But telecomm law has to do with much more than that. The telcos can’t disconnect the service of all Republicans on the eve of an election in order to make it harder for them to get the vote out. And as we say in Blown to Bits, Western Union actually was subject to neutrality legislation, after it colluded with one of the “wire services” to filter the news for political purposes. Those are better analogies for what neutrality means.

In other Google news, Warner Brothers has started to pull its videos off YouTube after failing to reach agreement on contract terms. No more Madonna or Red Hot Chili Peppers on YouTube? We’ll see who gets hurt more. It sounds like a foolish move on the part of an increasingly desperate music industry, unable to staunch the bleeding of bits and of dollars.

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