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Google and Verizon in Talks on Selling Internet Priority (nytimes.com)
166 points by necubi on Aug 5, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 98 comments

Total capitulation on Google's part. They were one of the few companies that could have stood up to the telecoms. We can't expect the congress, bought and paid for by telecom dollars, to do it. The courts won't allow the FCC to do it. This was Google's moment to change the world. What bothers me is not only did they shrug off that responsibility we projected on them as being a smart company standing up for users but they didn't even put up a fight. They seem to be the first US company to happily surrender to the telecoms. I hate to say it because it comes off like a conspiracy theory but you can't convince me that Android and Google TV aren't the main factors behind this. Google doesn't want to pick a fight with wireless providers, telco-video providers, cable TV/broadband providers. They need them to push their products. I can't believe they're doing this. It's mind boggling.

> This was Google's moment to change the world.

It is Google's moment. They will change the world, as soon as they start controlling who gets access to what on the internet along with Verizon and others.

> ... responsibility we projected on them as being a smart company

That is really our fault not theirs. We are the ones fooled by their marketing and moralistic mission statements.

> They seem to be the first US company to happily surrender to the telecoms.

Google exists to make money. If surrendering to the telecoms makes money then that's what they'll do.

> I can't believe they're doing this. It's mind boggling.

What truly boggles the mind is the number of smart people here who are completely enthralled with Google, and believe it is a source of pure good in the world, fighting those evil companies on behalf of the little guy.

Google is a great company and I admire it for building such an exceptional image of itself in the eyes of tech community. It is a good company not because it saves the world or feeds the hungry, but because it makes money.

What boggles my mind is that you and everyone else here are getting your collective pants in a twist over an unconfirmed report from anonymous sources about something that frankly sounds rather unlikely considering Google's history of public statements and financial commitments on the subject. Surely there will be enough time for that after you actually know what Google and Verizon are trying to do, if anything.

Your hunch was right. Google's just tweeted ( http://twitter.com/googlepubpolicy ) that:

"@NYTimes is wrong. We've not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet."

However they did meet with Verizon behind "closed doors" to agree on a common definition of what "net neutrality" is. Yes, it is not as infamatory as "let's implement something together and screw everyone else".

> We remain committed to an open internet.

Of course they do. No company we'll say - "we want to control the internet and everyone's access to it". They'll say somethig like "we want to expand more options for consumers", "we are helping deliver better content", and of course "we want an open internet". They are the ones being accusses of working out a deal behind consumers' back so their PR department will say something nice to soften the blow.

The only way to figure it out is to wait and see what happens. You'll have to forgive me if I don't take Google's PR department's word for it.

  >> They seem to be the first US company to happily surrender to the
  >> telecoms.
  > Google exists to make money. If surrendering to the telecoms makes
  > money then that's what they'll do.
That's a rather naive view of a complex question. Google has to balance short-, medium-, and long-term gains. If my only goal is to 'make money,' then I could make a ton of money if someone paid me $1-million to inject myself with the Ebola virus, but that's probably a fairly short-sighted decision...

> That's a rather naive view of a complex question.

Absolutely correct. I thought someone would call me out on that so let me explain in more details:

It is still about making money. It is about the expected ability to keep making money in the future. I was talking about maximizing the global future returns function (you can think of it as the stock value). This function is some composition of the 3 functions you broke it down to.

That still doesn't change the goal.

However,as you argue, there is a set of decisions that when taken, might lead to maximizing short term profit at the expense of long term profit.

Google traditionally tried to maximize the long-term, by positioning itself on the positive side of the moral spectrum -- it is their well-known "do no evil" mission statement. This of course could just be pure PR. Or, if not, it could have resulted in taking some short term losses (not getting involved with repressive governments around the world, for example) while increasing long term gains (attracting the right kind of geeks who actually care about morals, human rights, freedoms, etc.).

[As a quick side node on such moral mission statements, one can argue that the losses taken as a result of defending a moral stance, might be a good measure of how serious and sincere that moral stance really is. I am not passing any judgement on Google one way or the other here, just pointing out a general guideline].

The bigger the company got, the more likely that short-term gains will be emphasized. The company has stopped being identified with the personae of the original founders. Consequently it's moral properties have been slowly pushed aside and it became just another faceless multi-billion dollar behemoth.

Don't get me wrong, I like Google. It is making me money. I bought stock in it. But, I never bought into its "morality" message. I just assumed it was a PR trick to attract the right talent. It worked great, you have to give it to them. Eventually they'll have to rely on PR again, when that bubble bursts to minimize the damage to it "good" public image. Perhaps, now is such a time...

That's a bad analogy. Nobody would pay you to do that.

pharma corps without regulation? I might need to stop watching cyberpunk movies.

Why would they bother? No money in ebola - rare, highly fatal, and seen only in the poorest places on earth.

Bio-weapons division?

Hardly any money in that, assuming it's even legal, and don't governments (quite sensibly) keep all that in-house anyway?

How so? The point was to present an example of taking short-term gains that will have an effect on long-term gains. If Google blindly pursues only short-term gains, they risk weakening their medium- and/or long-term prospects.

Because your short long term loss doesn't benefit anybody. The long term gain in google's case would be Verizon, but in your example, it's some evil corporation who just wants you to die.

That's unrealistic.


"If surrendering to the telecoms makes money then that's what they'll do."

Surrendering to the telecoms leading to Google making more money seems very unlikely. Which is one reason to question the veracity of this report.

It is a good company because it solved a problem, related to us, and held itself to a high standard and we rightly attributed it good qualities because in its inception and even to today it has been a good force onto the world.

The moment Google starts to focus on the money at the expense of other more noble principles, such as Don't Be Evil, the company will die a slow at first and then immediate death.

Google was disruptive in its inception. It had and still has much support because it stood up to Microsoft. But now that it has paved the way and there is little difference between Google search and Yahoo or MSN, what keeps most searchers, especially in the tech community with google is its image.

The moment they start doing some evil, such image is dead, and people will be on a look out for some other search provider.

I hope that is the case and not just us under-estimating its PR department's ability to manipulate us.

I think you are mistaken on who capitulated. This story is a lot more informative:


Specifically, Google and Verizon's agreement could prevent Verizon from offering some prioritization to the biggest bidders who want better delivery of content on its DSL and fiber networks, according to the sources. But that wouldn’t apply to mobile phones, the sources said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the companies have not officially made their announcement.

So the story is either one way around.... or the exact opposite.

Great. Excellent. The fourth estate at work.

"Hey you -- you have a twitter account and an iPhone, you're our new lead tech reporter."

Do they even know how bad they are at this?

Where is it written that google is the protector of the internet? Sure they could stand up to the telecoms but they have responsibilities to their shareholders also and their bottom line.

It's a projection for the types of people who like to believe in mottos ("Don't be evil", "Think Different", etc) but it's a double edged sword if they're going to ride that reputation (China, open standards, open platforms, etc) and selectively duck the responsibility at other times. You can't help but be disappointed for selfish reasons. It's like Superman saving you from a burning building only to let the Earth spiral into the Sun a few days later. Thanks a lot Superman.

> ... but it's a double edged sword if they're going to ride that reputation (China, open standards, open platforms, etc) and selectively duck the responsibility at other times.

Very well and succinctly put.

It would probably be better if they never took a moral stance because they now risk getting judged by it, and thus appearing to be hypocrites.

That would create sort of a moral void, if you wish, ready for some other company to position itself into.

At the same time the moralistic motto was probably what propelled Google well ahead of others. When I think back, I wanted to work at Google because it was a "do no evil" kind of company. That kind of image will attract certain people. So if it was just a marketing ploy or they actually had to take short term losses in order to abide by their mission statement, it has served them well initially.

We'll just have to wait and see what happens in the future. I think they will start to abandon their moral stance slowly and turn into another faceless multi-billion dollar company.

I don't claim it is a bad thing. I had never bought into its morality anyway, I just bought its stock!

Their bottom line is hugely dependent on the goodwill that they've built up over several years, which will take a big hit if this story is accurate and the deal goes through. Switching default search engines is easy.

Microsoft/Bing could win themselves a ton of goodwill if they were to take the opposing stance to Google on this. (Though I question whether Microsoft leadership is savvy enough to capitalize on this opportunity.)

Or a golden opportunity for Blekko -- if they can get the invites out fast enough:


On the hearts of the million or two idiots that fuel tech blogs.

This is Google finally realizing that the public is more afraid of Google than it is of not having net neutrality. A google/Verizon deal makes all the niche content players more likely to favor net neutrality over having to complete with Google content.

>Total capitulation on Google's part.

The NY Times summary is exactly the opposite of reality -- Google negotiated to PREVENT a tiered internet, at least on landlines.

What the hell has happened with Tech News (this is hardly the first time where the fourth estate has presented reality in a shockingly inaccurate fashion)? The incompetence is just extraordinary.

I ended up reading this article multiple times and combing over every line of it to try and find the part where Google was going to buy Internet priority. In the end, I've concluded that the opposite is taking place. Google and Verizon are in talks about Google not taking legal action against Verizon, no matter how they choose to manage their network. While still troubling, the real concern is what this would show legislators about the need for net neutrality provisions. And it could go either way.

Another article in the Washington post makes this clearer.


Google isn't buying priority, they're negotiating for non-priority. That's a horse of a different color entirely.

I was going to say the same thing. The article seems very sparse on details of what is really being discussed. It's all talk until the details are public.

But my google love bias is probably a little transparent.

Alternatively, Google says "net neutrality is is great for everybody else, bitches."

"Don't be evil" is officially dead at the hands of a lust for control. Compare to Google in 2006:

"Today the Internet is an information highway where anybody – no matter how large or small, how traditional or unconventional – has equal access. But the phone and cable monopolies, who control almost all Internet access, want the power to choose who gets access to high-speed lanes and whose content gets seen first and fastest. They want to build a two-tiered system and block the on-ramps for those who can't pay. Creativity, innovation and a free and open marketplace are all at stake in this fight." -- Eric Schmidt


This article a little hard to believe to me. It's unsettling to see it from the NYT. Is there a need to bring up Android twice? I fail see to how Verizon running Android phones strengthens the notion that these two companies are forming an alliance.

This would go against everything Google has publicly stated on the subject.

Google has supported net neutrality legislation, but I don't think they've ever ruled out playing along with the carriers, had the regulatory efforts failed.

I'm not so sure what is so hard to believe; fast response times are crucial to Google's core business, selling eyeballs to advertisers. They could have waited for Microsoft or Yahoo to make the first move, but it's possible they were worried about being shut out.

Allow me to paint a conspiracy theory:

Verizon: So yeah Google... Apple is interested in making a deal to prioritize iTunes traffic with us. We figured we'd see if you wanted to make a deal too.

Google: No way.

Verizon: OK well, bad news, we're not going to subsidize Android phones anymore. We're never touching Google TV for FIOS. We're going to start selling the iPhone in fact -- and Apple has even let us change the default search engine to Bing as part of our prioritization deal.

Google: Well played. Where do we sign up?

That's not a conspiracy theory, that's completely making shit up. Apple doesn't appear once in the entire article.

"That's not a conspiracy theory, that's completely making shit up."

Aren't they usually the same thing?

Definitely. It's just interesting to think about the possibilities. Things always happen for a reason. Maybe I should have added a disclaimer that it's complete speculation. If Google had made this type of deal with Comcast or Cox Communications there wouldn't be any room for wacky conspiracy theories because they have very little direct interest in any Google services or products. Verizon does. That's what makes it fun.

>This would go against everything Google has publicly stated on the subject.

Who cares what a company has publicly stated? If a US insurance company has always publicly stated they only care about saving lives would you believe them? I guess so.

This article http://voices.washingtonpost.com/posttech/2010/08/google_and... paints a slightly different picture -- it claims GOOG was negotiating with VZ to prevent others negotiating non-neutral deals on wireline communications:

"Specifically, Google and Verizon's agreement could prevent Verizon from offering some prioritization to the biggest bidders who want better delivery of content on its DSL and fiber networks, according to the sources. But that wouldn’t apply to mobile phones, the sources said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the companies have not officially made their announcement.

And Verizon could offer some managed services -- better quality to some Web sites such as those offering health care services, the sources said. But some analysts speculate that managed services could also include discounted YouTube and other services to FiOs customers at better quality."

Whether or not this is still "not being evil" is another question.

Hope you don't mind, I submitted this here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1577341

Whaaa? Either the NYTimes is completely wrong about what this agreement entails, or Google has a lot of explaining to do.

Google tried "not being evil". This is Google's attempt at Jujitsu -- people are more scared of a google/verizon mega deal than they are of not having net neutrality.

Google is using fear of its potential evil to leverage sentiment against this deal and toward net neutrality. Google wins either way.

There's some jujitsu going on in your justification of the accusations being waged against Google, but I think it's a little silly to think this is just a PR stunt.

Do you think Google's advocacy of net neutrality wasn't a PR stunt? It was, and this is too. Consider:

Best for Google: Net neutrality

Second best for Google: non-neutral deals with as many ISPs as possible.

Google's selection of a premium wireless provider suggests that it's ready to make bold moves (and spend serious cash) to clinch a good position in a non net-neutral world. This is scary both for competitors and consumers who may have initially been on the fence about net neutrality.

In my personal opinion, net neutrality is not best for Google, aside from the PR hit. They have the cash to pay for the premium bandwidth pipes, unlike hypothetical startups they're trying to compete with. Net neutrality lowers the barrier to entry for competitors: without it, startups might have to raise serious capital if they want to provide services with the latency and bandwidth Google does.

That may be true. One alternative hypothesis I have is this:

Google is a very able company, but it's core revenue comes from search advertising.

A company like Comcast will (sooner or later) be able to easily afford to build its own search engine that is good enough. Microsoft did this with Bing, and who knows, MS or others could even do a special licensing deal with ISPs.

If a search company (Microsoft, or any of the variety of competitors) were able to score a non-neutrality deal with a few major ISPs, Google's bottom line would take a massive hit.

So all this talk of Google making videos play faster for everyone using a mobile network is a red herring. The real issue is that most of Google's revenue comes from US search ads, and most of those ads are served via a small number of ISPs.

Fortunately for Google, the scale of running web search data centers has been so massive that there have been significant barriers to entry.

But as Microsoft showed, it's possible to build a search engine that is every bit as good as Google for 99% of users from scratch without any secret sauce, relatively quickly.

If you want a thought experiment, suppose Microsoft licensed Bing to Comcast at a 50/50 ad revenue split deal and Comcast offered its customers $20/month cheaper pricing to force all search traffic through Bing. My guess is that most customers wouldn't care too much, and I think Google realizes this and chose to put lots of energy into net neutrality under the guise of not being evil.

The NY Times is completely wrong.

This hurts all of us entrepreneurs the most. The cost of premium throughput for your website will be a major barrier to entry for startups. It will ensure that the incumbents who can afford it stay on top and it means startups who offer broadband services will need to raise more money to compete and grow.

Google just lost their rights to "First do no evil." because they are doing this first and it's evil. This hurts the web at least as much as Microsoft's browser monopoly did.

Larry and Sergey I want you to think about how you would feel about this if you were starting Google today.

Previous comments by John Gruber on Google seem appropriate here.

"Google senior vice president Jonathan Rosenberg published a long memo “about the meaning of ‘open’ as it relates to the Internet, Google, and [Google’s] users.”

It’s the biggest pile of horseshit I’ve ever seen from Google.

Basically, he’s spewed 4,000 words to say that “open” is always good and always wins, Google is always open, therefore Google is always good and will always win. And please don’t worry your pretty little minds about things like Google’s search or ad algorithms or the specific details of how its data centers work, all of which things Google could not possibly be more secretive about. Because if you think about these things, you’ll see that Google isn’t open at all about certain financially lucrative areas where it has built huge technical advantages over its competitors, and that’s not possible, because Google is always open.

I really hope for Google’s sake that this horseshit artist Rosenberg is not representative of their executive ranks. Also: open is an adjective; the noun form in this context is openness."


This is either wrong or Google will reconsider. Too many of the people Google likes to recruit would consider this evil and Google is made up of too many people who would consider this evil.

Evil enough to give up free lunches and the tech world's best resume point? Evil enough to quit if you already work there?

In other words "evil enough so it cannot be rationalized away" in the face of "free lunches"? -- Probably not.

Worse things have been rationalized away by people...

While it might not kill their influx of talent to zero, I'm sure it'll put at least some dent in it (however minor it may be). There are people that will not be able to rationalize this away, and at the very least there will be a lot more people that will have their view of Google major-ly tarnished (even if they are still willing to swallow their principles and go to work there).

I can't speak for others, but at some point I'm going to start hiring people to work with on various projects, and if they tell me that one of the reasons that they left (or chose not to work for) Google was because they were disgusted with Google failing to do its part to "Do No Evil" and support Net Neutrality, I would be much more inclined to hire them.

That's someone I respect. Someone I'll get along with, and probably someone with a strong moral sense and therefore someone I'm more likely to trust. I don't want to hire people who just come for the "free lunch."

Well, I don't work for Google but I know I would switch to Bing if this happened.

Bing actually isn't that bad anyway. It's a legitimate competitor on pure technical merit.

It's quite likely these type of agreements will become common place among large companies and VC-funded startups ("Today, Sequoia announced a deal with AT&T, giving its partners special access to..."). Microsoft and Apple aren't going to let this advantage last long, and the internet landscape could look quite different in two years.

If they were naive enough to buy into "Don't do evil" in the first place I'm sure they will buy whatever hand waving Google uses to excuse themselves. How many people quite over China?

The Onion got a makeover? I can't say I recognise the design...

Ironically, the NYT's web design was led for the past few years by Khoi Vinh, whom they hired from the Onion.

The absolute worst part about this is that there is no reason to update basic infrastructure anymore on the lowest tier.

While I believe in the market some things are best as a baseline like basic education, roads, telephones, and internet access because those baselines actually create more market benefits and encourage opportunity and innovation.

If they go through with this it may be the beginning of the end for Google. At least for the google we once liked. Too many people are being hired by them. When they hire a lot of people not all them can be that great. I guess is time for the next great startup to come. The great next challenger of google may still be but an idea on the mind of an entrepreneur at this point. May explain why google likes to buy a lot of startups. Better kill them now before they kill google.

The agreement could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users.

But it could also lead to lower charges -- if the content/advertising side of the net starts to subsidize the last mile via the carriers. Broadcast TV is 'free', after all.

And even if such agreements caused higher charges in the short term, if that prompted new entrants and the deployment of new technologies -- mesh networks again, anyone? -- then the medium-to-longer term trend could again be lower charges.

I could easily imagine a starter broadband service that is totally 'free' -- with bandwidth to participating sites as fast as those sites want to pay, and bandwidth to all other sites under some smallish rate cap (no good for video/p2p). The same arrangement could also work well for areas of 'free' wifi -- subsidized sites are fast at bulk, other sites work but subject to some per-person (or per all-users) caps.

That's different than what we're used to, but not necessarily worse. It could provide incentives for creating new avenues to the end-user and new service opportunities. (Consider: a VPN account that pays the preference fee, so that again 'all sites' are top-speed.)

I thought that mesh networks were largely proven to not have the scalability needed.

WoW - what? Start-ups are going to have to pay ISPs to get "prioritization"?

If this is true Google just like Skype is selling it's soul to Verizon and if this deal goes through the Internet is seriously going to change for the worst.

The price of internet in the United States is already ridiculously high compared to the rest of the world.

Additionally, without net neutrality, monopolies could be easily formed.

Net neutrality is a concept founded upon a fantasy.

The idea that we should all get the same priority on the Internet is ridiculous. It has always been the case (and always will be the case), that the more money you have, the better services you can acquire.

From the guy running a gaming server, through the hacker building a highly scalable network using Linode, CNN using Akamai for streaming media and Google building hundreds of data centers; we're all willing to pay for bandwidth or reduce latency.

I'm not against the idea of network neutrality, quite the contrary; however, the gap between the aspiration and what goes on in practice is already too great. We're all players and it can never be unwound.

I agree. That's why we should keep it out of the law, since it's an unrealizable ideal, and just try to approximate it as much as we can. Egalitarianism is nice, but I don't think it's a moral imperative.

Isn't this an about-face for Google? I thought they were for neutrality?

Yes. They have been outspoken advocates of net neutrality in the past.

I could understand if net neutrality fell by the wayside and lots of companies started bidding on preferred access, Google could reasonably say "we wanted net neutrality, but in order to compete in a world without it, we have to buy preferred access as well". But having them be one of the first to bid for preferred access is immensely disappointing.

Well, they could be the one of the first to be reported as bidding for preferred access. I am sure telco's were talking "what-if" with content providers before this.

Don't panic!

The internet is not a delicate little flower needing careful tending by wise regulators. It is grey goo.

Any traffic tiering or preferencing schemes that are tried which don't feed overall capacity and delight users with new possibilities will be swept aside by new alternatives in a matter of 5-10 years.

I wish that was true. But don't forget who owns, operates, and maintains the actual cables. Telecoms.

Where we're going, we don't need cables.

If users don't believe their collective market power is strong enough, they should remember they are empowered in other ways too.

Elections in November, starting a net-neutral provider as competition, etc...

Interesting - I never heard anyone equate the internet to an unstoppable self-replicating technology before - but by God I hope you're right.

I'm not sure this is really an about-face on Google's part, even if true. There's nothing in the article to suggest that Google wants Verizon to require payment, just that there are talks between the two companies about Google paying Verizon not to put it in the slow lane. Reading between the lines, it sounds like Verizon is implementing a very non-neutral service and putting pressure on Google to pay up or have its sites penalized.

CNET is reporting the story quite differently:

"As part of the deal, Verizon would agree not to selectively throttle Internet traffic through its pipes. That would not, however, apply to data traveling over its wireless network for mobile phones, the report says."


This makes it sound like Google is still fighting the good fight...

(via Slashdot)

This is just baffling. Google is willing to stand up to the freaking Chinese government, but Verizon can force them to pay Danegeld? What happened to all that dark fiber they were buying? Are they looking at scary internal projections about iPhones on Verizon and Facebook's search engine?

I really hope this story is wrong; otherwise it says disturbing things about the stranglehold we've given to user-hostile oligopolies.

>Google is willing to stand up to the freaking Chinese government

Really? I must have missed that. I only saw where they posted a message about leaving China, never did and ended up complying with them in the end. Was the standing up part before that or after?

This sort of proves the point of the documentary film "The Corporation." Even if the owners, managers, shareholders, etc. of a corporation don't want to do slimy things, the system imposes a fiduciary responsibility on them to be slimy if doing so will make next quarter better.

Google Public Policy twitter account just tweeted that "@NYTimes is wrong. We've not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet."

Then why don't they make an official statement?

we'll find out when it's too late, meanwhile enjoy the sight of fine grained wood doors with highly polished brass locks:

"The Federal Communications Commission is negotiating behind closed doors with Verizon, Google, AT&T Inc. and other companies on rules...."


Where's the evidence?

No more Android for me or google. Hello Bing and stuff.

Does anyone think this issue is about Google offering Verizon users a chance to use that SPDY protocol they invented?

yet they still openly espouse net neutrality on their public policy blog, doublethink?



Looks like Google is another Microsoft in the making.

could it be that Google is trying to show people what could happen if a tiered internet became a reality, like reverse psychology

I think that is wishful thinking. My gut is that they are seriously considering this if it allows them to grow.

Google, that would be evil, if you do it I would be breaking up and go search on yahoo, or any other search provider.

Second, all of this article seems to be filled with the word secret. We live in a democracy which depends in its very foundations on transparency. Even if it is two private companies, it just makes me utterly suspicious and default to guilty until proven otherwise.

Third, who on earth are these consumers NYT? Some sort of cattle you can chop as you wish like products? We are not "consumers" denoting some sort of robot stuffing his face!

Oh I get it now, Google by doing this will cause Verizon to raise their prices, and thereby paving the way for them to come in with their own ISP and eat the telecoms' lunch.

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