Google is accused of betraying 'neutrality of the net'
Published 06/08/2010 | 05:00
GOOGLE was accused last night of betraying the founding principles of the internet, as it readied a deal that will abandon key parts of its support for 'net neutrality', which has guaranteed equal access to the worldwide web since its inception.
In what one internet freedom campaigner called a "doomsday scenario", the search engine pioneer is close to agreeing terms with the largest telecoms company in the US that would open the door to special "fast lanes" for favoured internet traffic.
The bilateral agreement between Google and Verizon raises the spectre of big media corporations carving up the internet between them, and side-steps the Obama administration's attempts to ensure that all internet traffic is treated the same.
Google was hastily trying to shore up its reputation last night, as it faced a torrent of criticism from campaign groups and individuals on Twitter and on blogs. The company denied that it will sign any deal to buy fast-lane access for its own traffic, which includes bandwidth-heavy videos from its loss- making YouTube site.
But the agreement between Google and Verizon is meant to lay ground rules for the treatment of internet traffic by the phone and cable companies over whose networks the data travels. Although the exact terms were shrouded in mystery, it was clear that the outline they have agreed introduces exemptions to the principle of net neutrality.
Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, said that the company has been "talking to Verizon for a long time about trying to get an agreement on what the definition of net neutrality is".
"People get confused; what we mean is that if you have one data type, like video, you don't discriminate against one person's video in favour of another. It's OK to discriminate across different types."
Under the deal, Verizon will not block or slow internet traffic over land lines, but could do so to wireless devices, which are increasingly important ways for to access the internet.
Meanwhile, Google is to end one of its most hyped networking services after less than a year, in what is being seen as a rare failure for the tech company. Google Wave allows users to collaborate in real time and share information in the same workspace on the internet.
Google Wave is a cross-platform communication tool that was hailed as a device that would end the need the need for a desktop computer when it was launched last September.