It helps to have a company as big as Google on your side, as we learned in the SOPA/PIPA fight when we beat back the draconian Stop Online Piracy Act. Now Google is teaming up with Netflix against other broadband providers.
Google fired a shot across the bow of big ISPs like Comcast and Verizon yesterday, stating in a blog post from its Fiber division that it would never charge a content company like Netflix fees for a direct interconnection with its network. This positions Google squarely behind Reed Hastings, who has argued that such interconnect fees are an unfair toll being charged by internet gatekeepers and that the FCC should ban them as part of an expanded definition of net neutrality. The public display of allegiance from Google, siding with Netflix against the ISPs, is part of the larger battle heating up as the FCC debates the future of its open internet rules.The big internet service providers in the U.S., however, have steadfastly refused to enter these peering partnerships with Netflix. In fact, there's reason to believe that Comcast actually, deliberately created a bottleneck to slow down delivery of Netflix content to force Netflix into a paid peering agreement. Google isn't being entirely altruistic in this fight, because it has paid interconnect agreements with the big ISPs for its content, and could save some money if these agreements were illegal under net neutrality.
In the post, Google focuses on the positive impact this kind of direct interconnection can have on consumers. "So that your video doesn’t get caught up in this possible congestion, we invite content providers to hook up their networks directly to ours. This is called ‘peering,’ and it gives you a more direct connection to the content that you want." Google isn’t alone in offering this kind of peering to Netflix for free. Many ISPs across Europe have joined the Netflix Open Connect program, putting Netflix hardware in their facilities and hooking it up directly with their network. Smaller ISPs in the United States, like Cablevision, have done the same thing.
At the same time however, Google is defending the principle that allowed it to become the behemoth it is—a free and open internet where technological innovation is rewarded. The more power a handful of huge ISPs have, the worse it would be for innovation. That's why the FCC needs to keep a tight rein on them, and reclassifying them as communications services would give them the legal authority to do just that.