(Corrects literal in headline to UPDATE; adds Whitt's name to
paragraph 2 for clarity, changes article in paragraph 3 to
read "cable companies that")
(Adds expert comments, context, byline; changes dateline,
previously NEW YORK)
By Kim Dixon
WASHINGTON Dec 15 Google Inc (GOOG.O) said on
Monday it is committed to principles of equal network access,
after a report said it approached Internet carriers with a
proposal to create a "fast lane" for its content.
Google's telecom and media counsel in Washington, Richard
Whitt, said in a company blog that the search powerhouse
offered to place its servers within the facilities of Internet
service providers, making its data closer to consumers and
therefore more easily accessed.
But Whitt said the offers did not violate so-called net
neutrality -- the principle that phone and cable companies that
operate data pipelines should treat all traffic equally.
Google was responding to a Wall Street Journal report on
Monday that its practices would put at risk its stance on
The company said providers should be able to bolster access
speeds through co-location and caching, both techniques that
ease data traffic, as long as they do so without
"However, they shouldn't be able to leverage their
unilateral control over consumers' broadband connections to
hamper user choice, competition, and innovation," he said.
The net neutrality debate has pitted Internet service
providers such as AT&T Inc (T.N) against content companies such
as Google and Microsoft (MSFT.O).
The ISPs say they need flexibility to manage the
ever-growing traffic on their networks without government
interference, while content companies worry the ISPs hold the
power to impede or slow traffic.
Many believe net neutrality will gain momentum under
President-elect Barack Obama, who backs the principle.
PUBLIC INTEREST DEFENDERS
Several prominent net neutrality backers came to Google's
defense and cast doubt on the Wall Street Journal report.
"The practices described in the article, known as
'caching,' are commonplace and have been for many years," said
Gigi Sohn, president of the advocacy group Public Knowledge.
"We in the public interest community are pleased to be
working closely with our friends in industry, and those friends
include Google," she added.
Josh Silver, executive director of advocacy group Free
Press, said the group is "skeptical that Google is truly
engaged in a nefarious plot to undermine the open Internet --
the company denies it, and we look forward to all of the facts
coming to light."
He added that if any company was planning to "secretly
violate" the principle of network neutrality, it would face
strong opposition from the Internet community.
The Journal report had said one major cable operator in
talks with Google said it has been reluctant to forge a deal
because of concerns it might violate Federal Communications
Commission guidelines on network neutrality.
(Reporting by Kim Dixon and Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Derek