The battle royale over federal authority for Net Neutrality all started when Comcast shut down certain user transfers on its service. The FCC claimed authority to enforce Net Neutrality against the company (although last month Comcast prevailed in its argument that the FCC doesn’t have the authority to regulate broadband).
However, now it seems Comcast is changing its tune. As Ars Technica reported last week, Comcast filed comments on the FCC’s proposed Open Internet rules. And now they’re actually in favor of the FCC regulating Internet access—as long as they’re not the ones being regulated. Nope, that “honor” should go to Google (and Akamai Technology), of course.
Akamai builds Content Delivery Networks—clumps of Web servers parked close to end users at the “Internet Edge.” These streamline online performance for service providers like Google, which uses CDNs early and often—so much so that in 2008 the Wall Street Journal provoked an online riot by suggesting that Google’s server co-location deals with ISPs put its oft-proclaimed net neutrality principles at risk. . . .
Comcast responds that it isn’t so simple. Operating one of the biggest CDNs around, Akamai “is in a position to influence the user experience—and the ‘prioritization’ of content—as much as or more than others, including broadband ISPs,” the ISP charges. Akamai’s alleged gatekeeper role stems from the ways that its services “enable Web site owners to essentially pay for prioritized end-user access to their sites, and give preferential treatment to certain content in ways that are not transparent to the end user.”
As for Google, the search engine “is in a unique position to take certain actions to promote its own revenue streams,” says Comcast, and cites filings with the FCC warning that “if a website is not listed in Google’s indexed search results, it is as if the website does not exist on the Internet.”
Ohhh boy. As SEOs, many of us have dealt with Google’s black box for years. Every time they make a major change, you don’t have to look hard to find someone claiming that it’s unfair, and Google needs to be regulated, blah blah blah. But do we really want the federal government stepping in to guarantee “equal access” for all sites in Google’s index? (How would you even do that?)
What do you think? Where does the responsibility for Net Neutrality and regulation lay?
Hat-tip to Simon Owens.