Google and Microsoft said Monday that they have not backed away from their support for net neutrality principles, despite a report to the contrary.
Both companies denied much of the information contained in a Wall Street Journal story, which suggested both companies have abandoned their support for network neutrality rules. The article reported that Google is trying to negotiate with broadband providers for an Internet fast lane for its content, apparently in conflict with its support for net neutrality rules prohibiting broadband providers from blocking or slowing content from some applications or companies.
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The Google efforts described in the article, to enter into edge caching agreements with broadband providers, are consistent with the company's efforts to support net neutrality, Richard Whitt, Google's Washington, D.C., telecom and media counsel, wrote on Google's public policy blog. Edge caching involves the temporary storage of frequently accessed data on servers that are located close to the users accessing that data, and Google has offered to colocate caching servers within broadband providers' facilities, Whitt wrote.
Whitt, in a blog post from June 2007, suggested that local caching would be an acceptable behavior for broadband providers, under Google's view of net neutrality. "These activities do not rely on the carrier's unilateral control over the last-mile connections to consumers, and also do not involve discriminatory intent," Whitt wrote then.
In Whitt's Monday blog post, he defended edge caching as an already common practice, offered by companies such as Akamai, Limelight, and Amazon.com's Cloudfront, and used by broadband providers to distribute Web content.
"Google and many other Internet companies also deploy servers of their own around the world," Whitt wrote. "These 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."
Google's colocation agreements with broadband providers are nonexclusive, meaning other online companies can make the same agreements, Whitt added. "Also, none of them require (or encourage) that Google traffic be treated with higher priority than other traffic," he said. "In contrast, if broadband providers were to leverage their unilateral control over consumers' connections and offer colocation or caching services in an anti-competitive fashion, that would threaten the open Internet and the innovation it enables."
The Wall Street Journal article also said Microsoft and Yahoo have quietly withdrawn from a net neutrality coalition. A Microsoft spokeswoman said there have been no recent changes.