The all-data-travels-coach ethos that has long ruled the Internet could be making way for business class.
Google reportedly is on the brink of an alliance with Verizon Communications Inc. that would give priority to a particular class of Internet traffic. It would pose a significant challenge to the current egalitarian flow of bits, bytes and terabytes over broadband connections.
Analysts, telecommunications firms and consumer groups say the pact, the first between a content provider, Google, and a broadband carrier, Verizon, would be a turning point in the debate over so-called net neutrality.
Those who've been briefed on the Google-Verizon negotiations say the deal would establish a model for cable and phone companies that paves an Internet express lane. That digital road would be reserved for Internet traffic created by businesses that pay an extra toll so their content would move faster. Various news agencies reported that a finished deal is just days away.
Now, the sometimes gridlocked lanes of data uploading and downloading across the Internet all move with the same right of way — a report from Library of Congress holding no preference over posts from any random blogger.
"The question is: 'Do we want everybody to have equal access to the Internet?' That's pretty much what we have right now," said Sandy Davidson, who teaches communications law at the University of Missouri. "I don't think we want people who have bigger checkbooks (to) determine what goes to the head of the line on the Internet."
Publicly, Google denied any such deal is imminent. A spokesman for the Internet search leader referred to a Twitter post from Google's public policy team Thursday saying "we've not had any (talks) with (Verizon) about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open Internet."
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