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Wall Street Journal Calls Google Evil


But misunderstanding may be at root of story.

Google (GOOG) denies a report in the Wall Street Journal saying it seeks preferential treatment for Internet traffic to and from its websites.

The newspaper reported that Google had talked to phone and cable companies about creating a "fast lane" for its content, but didn't name its sources. If the report is accurate, the proposal would upend network neutrality, a long-standing agreement that companies handling Internet traffic treat all content equally.

Google called the Journal's story "confused."

Richard Whitt, an attorney for Google in Washington, said in a blog post that The Journal apparently misunderstood the function of the company's "edge servers" within ISP networks.

Edge servers store frequently requested Google content, such as videos posted on YouTube. When users request the material, it's sent from local servers rather than from Google's central servers, cutting response time and reducing network congestion.

Edge servers aren't new and are used by other companies, including Akamai Technologies (AKAM) and Limelight Networks (LLNW). Few have argued that the technology violates the principle of network neutrality.

On his blog, Whitt said: "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."

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission sanctioned Comcast (CMCSA) for slowing some filesharing traffic.

The Journal warned: "If companies like Google succeed in negotiating preferential treatment, the Internet could become a place where wealthy companies get faster and easier access to the web than less affluent ones.... [which] could choke off competition."

If jumping to the head of the line were permitted, it would, in effect, make the Internet nothing more than a whiz-bang version of TV.

The idea of network neutrality started with the telephone business. When Ma Bell was split up, its regional successors couldn't give phone calls preference in connecting or routing. When the Internet took off in the early 1990s, most content was carried by phone lines and the rule took hold by default. The carriers were called "dumb pipes" because they adopted a strict hands-off policy on the burgeoning Internet traffic in their networks.

It's hard to imagine The Journal flubbed the story because the reporters missed, or didn't understand, the use of edge servers. Keep an eye out for a correction in Tuesday's paper.
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