Opinion: paper helps cable, telcos smear their biggest enemy...
With Google being public enemy number one to cable and phone companies for their positions on network neutrality, broadband competition, and unlicensed White Space spectrum, they've been a constant target of attacks coming from phone and cable industry lobbyists and mouthpieces
. The Wall Street Journal
is playing vessel for the latest attack, pushing leaked information from the cable industry that Google is violating its position on network neutrality by promoting the idea of hosting servers on ISP networks:
Google Inc. has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Google has traditionally been one of the loudest advocates of equal network access for all content providers...One major cable operator in talks with Google says it has been reluctant so far to strike a deal because of concern it might violate Federal Communications Commission guidelines on network neutrality.
It's a nice win for whichever cable company leaked the news as it paints Google as a hypocrite ahead of next year's renewed fight over network neutrality legislation. However, the Wall Street Journal is badly distorting Google's proposal for political effect. As the Google blog explains
, Google's talking about edge caching, an idea that would save ISPs bandwidth
. That's something that should appeal
to carriers, considering they just paid PR talking head Scott Cleland to attack Google for being a bandwidth glutton
. Google's Richard Whitt explains:
Edge caching is a common practice used by ISPs and application and content providers in order to improve the end user experience. Companies like Akamai, Limelight, and Amazon's Cloudfront provide local caching services, and broadband providers typically utilize caching as part of what are known as content distribution networks (CDNs). Google and many other Internet companies also deploy servers of their own around the world.
Arguments that Akamai engages in network neutrality violations because of CDN caching have been solidly deconstructed
, given that the packets for such arrangements are treated just like any other packet. Similar deals have been struck for years
without the Journal framing them as network neutrality infractions. According to Google, these new deals with ISPs are not exclusive, and none require that Google traffic see higher prioritization than any other content operation. Google says they remain committed to network neutrality.
While Google certainly is no saint, the Journal's piece stinks of manufactured controversy. Perhaps the Journal was honestly confused about the differences between caching and packet prioritization. But when two of your own sources directly dispute what you're saying (Whitt, Lessig
) and your primary anonymous source comes from an industry that's spending millions on a campaign to smear Google at any cost
-- some red flags should go up.
At best this was horrible reporting -- authors Kumar and Roads conned by their cable industry source into a position that makes absolutely no sense. At worst it's a public relations and political hit job with the Journal's conscious support. Either way, expect many, many more of these types of disingenuous "debates" ahead of next year's fight over network neutrality legislation. There's a lot of money at stake in 2009, and as such -- a lot of money is being spent on both sides to frame (and often distort) the debate.