Earlier today an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal claiming it had obtained some paperwork proving that Google approached major phone and cable companies “with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content.” This initiated a wave of heated comments criticizing the search giant for supposedly backing off its net neutrality stance and seeking preferential treatment for its traffic – Google, of course, has strongly denied the charge.
At the heart of the discussion is “edge caching,” which is the practice of putting frequently accessed data on servers located near end users so that content is loaded faster when others in a network have presumably already accessed it. This is a common practice used by ISPs and application and content providers such as Akamai to improve bandwidth usage and minimize bottlenecks on ISPs’ pipelines.
Thus a number of websites have found WSJ’s report a bit misguiding, some even calling it an attempt to stir up controversy and attract attention, particularly because while the alleged deal would indeed make Google’s services faster and more responsive, it won’t do so at the expense of other non-Google services.
Google for its part reaffirmed its commitment with net neutrality and emphasized that these deals won't be exclusive, saying any content provider could get the same sort of deals if they are willing to pay the price – as it has always been. In turn, this opens up a whole new debate on whether such deals are congruent to the entire net neutrality concept, given that smaller companies probably won’t have the cash to spring for Google-style co localization schemes.