Don’t let reality get in the way

Last week, the New York Times published this story: “Google and Verizon… are nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege”.

I contacted a spokesperson at Verizon, who confirmed that both companies have been working together on net neutrality issues for quite some time but could not comment on such an agreement. After that, I asked someone at the Google office in Washington about the issue. She just had this to say: “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.” Quite simple: the Times seemed to be wrong.

How did that saying go? I believe it was something like this: ‘Don’t let reality get in the way’.

I had an honest conversation with my editors in Madrid, who decided to be cautious and, suitably, pass on the issue. ‘If this is going to be a blunder, let it be the Times’ blunder’, I thought.

Yesterday, Google and Verizon went ahead and came up with a joint policy proposal in which they said that they favor a “new nondiscrimination principle [which] includes a presumption against prioritization of Internet traffic – including paid prioritization. So, in addition to not blocking or degrading of Internet content and applications, wireline broadband providers also could not favor particular Internet traffic over other traffic.” They made it official. Again, the Times seemed to be wrong.

However, I still don’t see a rectification in the story that the Times published. What’s more, its editors went ahead and published another story where they somehow tried to suggest that they were not 100% mistaken in their previous coverage: “The proposal, however, carves out exceptions for Internet access over cellphone networks, and for potential new services that broadband providers could offer. In a joint blog post, the companies said these could include things like health care monitoring, advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options.”

That exception is quite different from speeding “some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay”, which is what they said in their first story. However, a good part of the American media followed suit and did not let Google and Verizon’s denial get in the way…

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