Google Fiber Remains Our Only Hope: Says It Won't Charge for Peering
What's been a side show to the general battle over net neutrality, the possible Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger, and the FCC is the more technical issue of network interconnects and "paid peering." Google Fiber -- which has been seen as the only hope for a fair, open internet if the FCC allows "fast lanes" and the largest cable merger in history -- just announced it doesn't and won't charge for peering.
On Wednesday, Director of Network Engineering Jeffrey Burgan posted on Google Fiber's blog an explaination about how the company's fiber optic ISP works with content providers to "make the rest of your video's journey shorter and faster." In it, Burgan explained that Google Fiber doesn't charge any content companies like Netflix for direct connections to its network for more reliable delivery -- something that Comcast and Verizon have both demanded of Netflix recently.
"Like other Internet providers, Google Fiber provides the 'last-mile' Internet connection to your home." But despite content providers spending billions of dollars to transport data to the "last mile" providers, Burgan said, "the content may run into bottlenecks -- if the connections between the content provider and our network are slow or congested, that will slow down your access to content, no matter how fast your connection is."
"So that your video doesn't get caught up in this possible congestion, we invite content providers to hook up their networks directly to ours. This is called 'peering,' and it gives you a more direct connection to the content that you want," Burgan said.
In addition, Google Fiber provides assets to content companies to make sure their videos are delivered swiftly. "We give companies like Netflix and Akamai free access to space and power in our facilities and they provide their own content servers. We don't make money from peering or colocation," Burgan said ( "colocation" refers to allowing Netflix and others to place their own servers within Google's facilities), "since people usually only stream one video at a time, video traffic doesn't bog down or change the way we manage our network in any meaningful way - so why not help enable it?"
As Ars Technica's Jon Brodkin said, Google owns the second most popular streaming site, YouTube, so its commitment to free peering -- something which Netflix (in its own self interest, as the number one most popular streaming service) brought up as a possible expansion of the net neutrality debate -- is somewhat self-serving.
For example, according to the most recent post from Streaming Media's Dan Rayburn, Google has peering agreements with every major ISP and Level 3, a major network middle-man.
While terms of those deals aren't public, you can bet Google is paying for at least some of those direct interconnects.
However self-serving, Google Fiber's commitment to free peering (and previous commitment to the non "fast lane" net neutrality) is a bright spot in what's become an uphill battle for advocates of an open, un-tiered internet. And it shines a light on direct interconnect/peering, which is still a controversial, up-in-the-air subject in the context of expanding the definition of net neutrality with experts on both sides of the argument.
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