Although tech blogs from both the civil liberties left and the free market right have supposedly debunked Monday’s hot Wall Street Journal article about Google reversing its long standing pro-Net Neutrality position, other irksome (and locally relevant) revelations in the article remain standing: Two major Seattle tech-culture companies, Microsoft and Amazon, also longtime advocates of Net Neutrality, are getting squishy on the issue.
Net Neutrality is the James Madison-y idea that all content is created equal. Practically speaking, it means this: Internet companies like AT&T cannot give preferential treatment to content companies, or any website for that matter. Walmart.com cannot get better treatment than Hel-Mart.com, for example.
The concept has been contested by transmission companies like AT&T who want the option of offering better delivery for companies willing to pay more. They argue that big content companies should get better service (and pay more) because they use more bandwidth. But that’d be like Seattle Public Utilities giving a wealthy family living in North Seattle faster and hotter water than someone living in South Seattle just because the fancy family used more water and paid more.
While the tech blogs went after the Journal article, defending Google’s honor by pointing out that Google was only promoting a long standing concept called edge-caching— which apparently doesn’t jeopardize net neutrality — the accusations that Seattle’s own Microsoft and Amazon are reversing themselves on Net Neutrality remains in question.
In the two years since Google, Microsoft, Amazon and other Internet companies lined up in favor of network neutrality, the landscape has changed. The Internet companies have formed partnerships with phone and cable companies, making them more dependent on one another.
Microsoft, which appealed to Congress to save network neutrality just two years ago, has changed its position completely. “Network neutrality is a policy avenue the company is no longer pursuing,” Microsoft said in a statement. The Redmond, Wash., software giant now favors legislation to allow network operators to offer different tiers of service to content companies.
Microsoft has a deal to provide software for AT&T’s Internet television service. A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment whether this arrangement affected the company’s position on network neutrality.
Amazon’s popular digital-reading device, called the Kindle, offers a dedicated, faster download service, an arrangement Amazon has with Sprint. That has prompted questions in the blogosphere about whether the service violates network neutrality.
“Amazon continues to support adoption of net neutrality rules to protect the longstanding, fundamental openness of the Internet,” Amazon said in a statement. It declined to elaborate on its Kindle arrangement.
Amazon had withdrawn from the coalition of companies supporting net neutrality, but it recently was listed once again on the group’s Web site. It declined to comment on whether carriers should be allowed to prioritize traffic.
Microsoft kinda sorta denied that they’re backing away from Net Neutrality in this follow-up article, but they don’t address the specifics of the WSJ’s accusations.
Sidenote: The WSJ article also indicates that Obama—who was a loud advocate of Net Neutrality during the campaign—may also be reversing course.