Google Wants Private Internet Express Lane?

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Internet giant Google might talk the talk about network neutrality—that is, that network operators shouldn’t give preferential treatment to some content (e.g, their partners’) than others…but the company may not be walking the walk. According to the Wall Street Journal,, Google has approached cable and telecom operators about .—which includes not only its market-leading search engine, but also a growing number of services and platforms, as well as the nearly-ubiquitous YouTube online video sharing service.

Cable and telecom operators have viewed the option of creating high-performance networks for—or simply giving preferential treatment to—content partners who pay extra for the privilege. As the Internet has exploded—particularly the exchange of digital media and video—providers argue they need to upgrade their networks to keep up with the demand. Rather than placing that burden on end-users, the telcos have considered charging big content providers—like Google—for improved performance. And the language has gotten bitter, with one Verizon VP having described Google’s traffic on its network as “enjoying a free lunch that should, by any rational account, be the lunch of the facilities providers.”

However, any private deal that would grant preferential access to Google—or any other company—would potentially run afoul of the FCC’s four “principles of openness” laid down in 2005, which mandate that network operators treat all traffic with equal priority. In August, the FCC sanctioned Comcast for violating those principles by forging reset packets to block selected P2P traffic; Comcast is appealing the ruling.

Few details are available on the kinds of deals Google may be seeking with network operators, but the crux of the current negotiations seems to be focused more on co-location deals—Google parking servers at network operators’ facilities—rather than constructing their own separate network centers.

The Wall Street Journal also reports Microsoft and Yahoo have pulled out of a coalition created in 2006 to protect network neutrality.