SAN FRANCISCO—Google and US telecom carrier Verizon on Thursday denied they were in talks on a scheme to charge digital content makers fees to have their traffic routed more quickly across the Internet.
Such an arrangement would be seen as a major blow to the campaign for “net neutrality” in which no content is given priority treatment online.
Google has long championed net neutrality, which has also been a priority for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Talks with Verizon to establish tiered pricing for Internet data traffic would be seen as a reversal of position.
The denials came in response to a New York Times story saying Google was in discussions with Verizon about the idea of companies such as video hotspot YouTube paying Internet service providers for priority handling of data.
“The New York Times is quite simply wrong,” Google spokeswoman Mistique Cano said in an email response to an AFP inquiry.
“We have not had any conversations with Verizon about paying for carriage of Google or YouTube traffic. We remain as committed as we always have been to an open Internet.”
Verizon also said the Times report was “mistaken.”
“Our goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority while maintaining investment and innovation,” Verizon spokesman David Fish said in a blog post.
“To suggest this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect.”
Internet and telecom giants have been meeting with FCC officials to craft a net neutrality strategy.
US government regulators moved in June to assert their authority over high-speed Internet broadband service, setting up a potential clash with US telecommunications giants.
The FCC voted 3-2 to receive public comment on three proposals defining how broadband service should be regulated.
The move came two months after a US appeals court dealt a major setback to the FCC’s efforts to force Internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all Web traffic equally.
A US appeals court ruled in favor of broadband provider Comcast Corp. in April in a case seen as a test of the FCC’s authority to enforce net neutrality — the principle that ISPs provide the same speed and level of service to all Web users, regardless of size.
Net neutrality would prevent ISPs, for example, from blocking or slowing bandwidth-hogging Web traffic such as streaming video or other applications that put a strain on their networks or from charging different rates to users.
The court ruled unanimously in the Comcast case that the FCC had not been granted the legal authority by Congress to regulate the network management practices of ISPs.
The process launched in June was aimed at reasserting some FCC authority over broadband and allowing it to push ahead with its National Broadband Plan, an ambitious effort to bring high-speed Internet to the entire United States.
One of the three proposals put forward has been promoted by FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and calls for broadband Internet service to be reclassified as a telecommunications service.
That would force ISPs to adhere to the same strict fairness rules for consumer access as apply to telephone companies.
“Any outcome, any deal that doesn’t preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet for consumers and entrepreneurs will be unacceptable,” Genachowski said during a press conference after an FCC meeting on Thursday.