Google and Verizon's Net neutrality manuevers: It's the money, honey

The two companies deny pact to end Net neutrality, but other forces are working against Internet's foundational principle

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But at the same time, ISPs are also becoming content providers. The No. 1 cable broadband company, Comcast, is in the process of merging with NBC Universal, the No. 4 TV network and sixth-largest movie studio. The parent company of Time Warner Cable (the fourth-largest ISP) already owns CNN, HBO, Warner Bros Studio, Turner Broadcasting, and a sizable publishing empire.

Will broadband providers give their own content more favorable treatment if Net neutrality fails? Does the Pope wear a funny hat?

Imagine the next YouTube trying to launch itself in an environment where the people who own the pipes also own most of the stuff that flows through them. Unless that startup has deep pockets, it's dead in the water. So long, Chad. Later, Steve. Time to get a real job, Jawed.

Sadly, there's no easy solution here. Reader and regular correspondent D. S. recently shared with me a snippet from a document put together by the City of Seattle a few years ago in a Request for Interest [PDF] for a citywide fiber network. It captures pretty well how he and I both feel about the matter:

Non Discriminatory Bit Transport

It is vital to the future of the Internet that network owners not discriminate in terms of bit transport or unnecessarily mediate between users and content or application providers. This should not be construed as a prohibition on quality of service guarantees but the network partner must provide similar treatment to all providers of like services. We believe that preferential treatment by network owners or operators of data streams will distort the evolutionary path of the Internet, stifle creativity and innovation and ultimately abridge the ability of the Internet to be a medium for the free dissemination of diverse thought and opinion.

Nice idea, no? The problem here, of course: Where does "differentiating between different classes of service" end and "discriminating against bits" begin? If I had the answer to that one, maybe they'd make me head of the FCC.

Or possibly Pope. I'm told I look good in funny hats.

Are you on the fence about Net neutrality? Well climb off and let me know what you think by posting below or sending me an email:

This story, "Google and Verizon's Net neutrality manuevers: It's the money, honey" was originally published at Read more of Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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