A labyrinth is emerging surrounding the state of network neutrality today involving Google, Verizon and the Federal Communications Commission. Beginning in late June, reports claim that the FCC held meetings with numerous large I
nternet organizations regarding how service providers may privilege data transfer from paying companies over others.
Net neutrality is concerned with the equality of data flow on the Internet, and many disagreeing groups see the meetings as undermining that concept. To such people, the practice of privileging some data over others would interfere with independent sources, small organizations and free speech. Since the alleged talks have involved the subject of giving more bandwidth to companies that pay ISPs, it would effectively make it more difficult for Internet users to access sites and media from smaller content creators.
Earlier coverage tracks the FCC's attempted role in these meetings. "We have called off this round of stakeholder discussions. It has been productive on several fronts, but has not generated a robust framework to preserve the openness and freedom of the Internet – one that drives innovation, investment, free speech, and consumer choice," Edward Lazarus, the FCC's chief of staff, said in a statement quoted by PCMag today. "All options remain on the table as we continue to seek broad input on this vital issue."
This announcement was a response to rumors of a deal between Google and Verizon that was reported yesterday in the New York Times and elsewhere. The coverage speculated that the two media leviathans were "nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content's creators are willing to pay for the privilege." Responding to this article, Google's public policy Twitter account posted this morning, "@NYTimes is wrong. We've not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet."
While contradictory, this conversation needs more than better fact-checking. Corporations and public interest groups alike have much at stake in the Net Neutrality debate, and these incidents show the sensationalism that can arise on either side.