Why I think Verizon won’t win the bandwidth battle with Google

Verizon is threatening to start charging Google for the traffic it generates over its internet backbone.

“The network builders are spending a fortune constructing and maintaining the networks that Google intends to ride on with nothing but cheap servers” [Verizon senior vice president and deputy general counsel John] Thorne told a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. “It is enjoying a free lunch that should, by any rational account, be the lunch of the facilities providers.”

Strange broken lunch metaphors aside, it seems Verizon wants Google to start paying for the traffic that goes on their lines between users and Google’s services. Never mind that the bandwidth already gets paid for by the end users.

The threat? Verizon will add a bottleneck to the connection, slowing down Google while letting other sites through at full speed. One might also notice that Verizon and Yahoo! launched a co-branded DSL service last August. Coincidence?

Anyway, let’s go through a little thought experiment, shall we?

  1. Google refuses to pay Verizon for its bandwidth.
  2. Verizon starts capping bandwidth for Google traffic.
  3. Verizon customers notice that Google is slower, and that Google is snappy on their friend’s cable modem.
  4. Cable modem commericals tout great performance on “the sites most used on the Internet, such as Google.”
  5. Over time, Verizon loses customers because the most well-known and most-used site doesn’t perform well.
  6. Verizon eats their words and lifts the cap.

In the end, Google doesn’t pay anything extra, most users don’t care that anything happened but are subtly repelled by Verizon, and Verizon wastes money on implementing and maintaining a lot of routers that now have to filter everything and hold onto packets for longer.

I for one am not worried about anything coming of this.

Author: Grant Hutchins

Ruby developer at Pivotal Labs Electronic musician

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