By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Now it’s the Times versus Google and Verizon

For now, at least, it looks like the New York Times is doubling down on its report that Google and Verizon are negotiating a deal that would allow Verizon to offer tiered levels of service for content-providers — a deal that would severely undermine the principle of net neutrality.

In a follow-up today, the Times’ Edward Wyatt reports that FCC chairman Julius Genachowski would oppose such a deal. The story continues:

His remarks came in response to press reports that Google and Verizon were nearing an agreement about broadband management that could clear the way for Verizon to consider offering such a service. The two companies declined to comment on any potential deal.

You will note that the link to “press reports” (plural) brings you to Wyatt’s Thursday story (singular), now disputed by Google. Indeed, writing that Google and Verizon have declined to comment may be true in a technical sense, but it strikes me as disingenuous given Google’s full-throated denial. Verizon has since denied it as well.

Scott Morrison of Dow Jones has more on the sniping between the Times and the two companies, quoting Google spokeswoman Mistique Cano as saying, “The New York Times is quite simply wrong. We have not had any conversations with Verizon about paying for carriage of Google or YouTube traffic.”

But Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty says her paper is sticking by its story, commenting, “Google’s comment about the New York Times story refutes something the Times story didn’t say.”

A Times commenter, Dan K of Brooklyn (not me, I swear!), has some links to other coverage that raise the possibility that Google is pursuing separate strategies regarding Verizon’s broadband and cellular networks, and that the Times may have confused the two.

But the Times story, if accurate, is a huge embarrassment for Google, which has long been a corporate leader in the fight to preserve the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. Net neutrality is what allowed an upstart like Google to become a major media player in the first place, and it’s fostered independent news outlets ranging from Talking Points Memo to the guy in his mother’s basement who blogs about local zoning issues.

Save the Internet has responded to all this with a new campaign called “Dear Google: Don’t Be Evil.”

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  1. Siva Vaidhyanathan

    How come Scott Morrison of Dow Jones says the Times is wrong, but the WSJ ran essentially the same story as the Times?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Siva: Got a link to that WSJ story?

  2. Siva Vaidhyanathan

    Here, from yesterday. The lede is different. But the “pay-for-play” element is halfway down.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Siva: To me, the WSJ story is much more tenuous than the Times’, and goes out of its way to make the distinction between broadband and cellular. I don’t see Google claiming that the Journal got it wrong.

      • Dan Kennedy

        Here’s another Wall Street Journal story, reporting that the FCC has put a stop to the talks between Google and Verizon. It ends like this:

        Google and Verizon denied a news report that suggested their agreement represented a business deal in which Google would pay Verizon for faster delivery of its online content to Internet users.

        The companies didn’t deny that they have reached an agreement on net neutrality which they hope could be used as a model for future legislation or FCC rules.

        “We remain as committed as we always have been to an open Internet,” said Google spokeswoman Mistique Cano. “We have not had any conversations with Verizon about paying for carriage of Google or YouTube traffic.” Google owns the Internet video site YouTube.

        In a statement, Verizon didn’t provide details but said the agreement aimed to create “an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation.”

  3. Siva Vaidhyanathan

    That helps. Still, it’s not yet clear the Times got it wrong.

    It’s important to remember that Google’ vision of Net Neutrality is not the same as Classic Net Neutrality.

    Google’s vision — of course — favors incumbents like Google:

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Siva: I’m not ready to say the Times got it wrong. But I think it’s clear that no one reported quite what the Times did.

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