Corporate giants Google and Verizon are reportedly near a deal that could result in faster Internet service for some web sites. But it could ultimately result in higher prices for users.
According to a report in The New York Times, the owners of web sites would pay Verizon for the privilege of having their sites given priority and delivered faster to users. The sites would pay Verizon for that. But critics fear those costs will eventually be passed down to consumers, as they often are.
The possible deal would throw the idea of "net neutrality" out the window. This is the concept that all web sites are created equal, that Internet providers will not give preference to one or the other, or block access to any site.
The Federal Communications Commission has been trying to enforce net neutrality rules. But that effort was dealt a severe blow in April, when a federal appeals court ruled that the FCC lacked the authority to regulate broadband delivery.
The FCC has had ongoing talks with many companies -- including Google and Verizon -- to come up with some kind of agreement on how best to regulate the Internet. Verizon says it is committed to those negotiations.
“We are currently engaged in and committed to the negotiation process led by the FCC," said Verizon spokesman David Fish. "We are optimistic this process will reach a consensus that can maintain an open Internet, and the investment and innovation required to sustain it.”
However, Fish admits Verizon has also been talking to Google for nearly a year "to reach an agreement on broadband policy."
Such talks scare consumer advocates.
“The point of a network neutrality rule is to prevent big companies from dividing the Internet between them,” said Gigi Sohn, president and a founder of Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group. “The fate of the Internet is too large a matter to be decided by negotiations involving two companies, even companies as big as Verizon and Google.”