Google is seeking to place content distribution servers within the networks of major ISPs, creating a "fast lane" for its content, according to the Wall Street Journal. The arrangement could allow Google to use less bandwidth to serve its content, but the Journal questioned whether the move would be at odds with Google's public support for Net neutrality.
Google has responded with a blog post asserting that Google's edge caching is consistent with network neutrality and current practices of content network providers like Akamai and Limelight.
The Journal says it has reviewed douments showing that Google "has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content." An excerpt:
Google's proposed arrangement with network providers, internally called OpenEdge, would place Google servers directly within the network of the service providers, according to documents reviewed by the Journal. The setup would accelerate Google's service for users.
The concept is similar to content delivery network (CDN) technology, which allows content to be stored (cached) on servers located within the networks of ISPs.
"Edge caching is a common practice used by ISPs and application and content providers in order to improve the end user experience," writes Richard Whitt, Washington Telecom and Media Counsel for Google. "Companies like Akamai, Limelight, and Amazon's Cloudfront provide local caching services, and broadband providers typically utilize caching as part of what are known as content distribution networks (CDNs). Google and many other Internet companies also deploy servers of their own around the world."
"We've always said that broadband providers can engage in activities like colocation and caching, so long as they do so on a non-discriminatory basis," Whitt added. "All of Google's colocation agreements with ISPs - which we've done through projects called OpenEdge and Google Global Cache -- are non-exclusive, meaning any other entity could employ similar arrangements. Also, none of them require (or encourage) that Google traffic be treated with higher priority than other traffic."
Whitt called the Journal's account "confused." After the Journal story was published on its web site Sunday, Google took significant heat in the blogosphere.
But others don't see the arrangement as breaking new ground. "Google’s desire to host servers (or routers, it could be either) inside ISP networks is a move calculated to improve on the ROI on the existing network of server farms and to blunt the Akamai advantage," writes Richard Bennett at Broadband Politics. "It makes more sense to wire directly to the ISPs through private arrangements than to stress the public Internet infrastructure any further. One thing that this deal doesn’t do is change the Internet infrastructure. Arrangements like this already exist, predating the kerfuffle over fast lanes created out of thin air by public interest advocates three years ago."