Ever since it was discovered that American ISP Comcast was throttling BitTorrent and peer-to-peer traffic last year, net neutrality has been a hot topic for discussion. Google is already known to be in favour of net neutrality, but is now ramping that support up with development of tools to ensure ISPs play fairly.
Last summer, Comcast was found to be penalizing subscribers of its broadband service who downloaded excessively from BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer clients. Since then, it has come to light that many ISPs have followed suit, not only in the US, but around the world, and the big losers are the customers who are seeing their so-called unlimited services severely limited.
It was recently rumored that Comcast is planning on further punishing heavy users (and consequently all users) by introducing metered bandwidth use, and monthly caps. Meanwhile, in the UK, the CEO of Virgin media, the second largest British ISP caused uproar by claiming that “this net neutrality thing is a load of bollocks.”
So with the ISPs standing firm behind the idea that they have the right to penalize heavy users, the ordinary broadband user needs a big-name, high-profile champion. Step forward Google.
Google already backs the idea of net neutrality, which it refers to as broadband neutrality, but according to The Register, the company is now ramping up its support by developing tools to help ordinary users test to see whether their ISP is throttling their service or not.
Richard Whitt, Senior Policy Director for Google announced the plans during a panel discussion at Santa Clara University:
We’re trying to develop tools, software tools…that allow people to detect what’s happening with their broadband connections, so they can let [ISPs] know that they’re not happy with what they’re getting – that they think certain services are being tampered with.
If the broadband providers aren’t going to tell you exactly what’s happening on their networks, we want to give users the power to find out for themselves..
However, as Hot Hardware reports, it wasn’t always clear which side of the net neutrality divide Google was going to be on. In late 2005 when the idea of ISPs charging some customers extra first came up, Google discussed the issue:
We were pretty well known on the internet. We were pretty popular. We had some funds available. We could essentially buy prioritization that would ensure we would be the search engine used by everybody. We would come out fine – a non-neutral world would be a good world for us.
Luckily, both common sense and idealism then kicked in, and Google made its choice for good.
It’s not known when these tools will be made available, or how they will operate, but it is known that Google engineers have been working on the project for quite some time. With Google firmly in the net neutrality corner, the ISPs should be running scared.
However, if the tools take too long to arrive, they may prove worthless, as every ISP will then be throttling bandwidth, and it will be too little, too late to do anything about it.