Google on Monday reaffirmed its commitment to "net neutrality" after a newspaper reported the Internet giant was moving away from its support of the principle that all Web traffic should be treated equally.
"Google remains strongly committed to the principle of net neutrality, and we will continue to work with policymakers in the years ahead to keep the Internet free and open," Richard Whitt, Google's Washington-based counsel for telecom and media, wrote in a posting on the company blog.
Whitt was replying to a story in The Wall Street Journal which said Google had approached major cable and telecom companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to "create a fast lane for its own content."
Such a move would conflict with the principle of net neutrality, which is backed by the regulatory US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under which cable and telecom companies provide equal network access for all content providers.
Cable and telecom companies, with Web traffic soaring, have been seeking ways to get Internet content providers to share in their network costs, the Journal noted, and charging companies for "fast lanes" is one option.
The Journal quoted one major cable operator in talks with Google as saying it has been reluctant so far to strike a deal, however, because of concern it might violate the FCC guidelines on network neutrality.
Whitt, the Google counsel, described the Journal report as "confused" and said what the Internet company has sought to do is to place "edge caching servers" within the facilities of broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Edge caching on servers near end users allows for quicker delivery of data such as YouTube videos and other frequently accessed content.
Whitt noted that "some critics have questioned whether improving Web performance through edge caching ... violates the concept of network neutrality," but he argued that it does not.
"Edge caching is a common practice used by ISPs and application and content providers in order to improve the end user experience," he said, adding that "Google has offered to 'colocate' caching servers within broadband providers' own facilities.
"We've always said that broadband providers can engage in activities like colocation and caching, so long as they do so on a non-discriminatory basis," Whitt said.
"None of them require (or encourage) that Google traffic be treated with higher priority than other traffic," he said.
During his campaign for the White House, US president-elect Barack Obama came out strongly in favor of net neutrality.
© 2008 AFP