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Content vs. telecoms: Net neutrality explained

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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: "Net Neutrality" is the buzzword for an ongoing debate about whether some Internet information and services can be given priority over others. Now thankfully, we are not going to say the words "net neutrality" again, but we are going to try to explain the debate. On one side, you typically have the folks who provide content -- say, Amazon or Facebook. On the other are the cable and phone companies that provide the pipe that sends that content to you. Now two of the major players say they have a deal. Marketplace's Jeff Horwich joins me live with the details. Good morning, Jeff.

Jeff Horwich: Hi, Bill.

Radke: The deal was announced by Google and Verizon. And what did they say?

Horwich: Well they say they have found some middle ground in what seemed like a pretty intractable debate. The basic Internet as we know it today -- according to their deal, anyway -- the wires in the ground running to your house, that would treat all data equally, the way Google and most content companies want it. However, the wireless Internet, Verizon and the telecoms companies could prioritize data however they want, and they'd be able to lay new wires to establish super-fast networks that they can maybe charge for. Verizon says these might be used for really data-intensive things like 3-D video.

Radke: Right. I imagine Google and Verizon going off in a corner and whispering amongst themselves and coming to this agreement. What were the differences they had to bridge?

Horwich: Well Google's generally sided with the content camp -- the people who say, "We want every byte of data on the net to be treated equally." In other words, getting back your search result from Google should arrive just as fast, and no faster, as the same amount of data from a video on iTunes or the pictures of her cat your aunt posts to her blog. Verizon, on the other hand, is with the telecommunications companies saying, hey, we put a ton of money into broadband, satellites, cell phone tower, we should be able to route traffic how we want, and yes, maybe make a little money by offering, let's say, "special treatment."

Radke: So they say they have a deal. Does this immediately change my Internet?

Horwich: No, it does not. This is basically a pitch to the Federal Communications Commission, saying: "Look, why don't you consider regulations along these lines, and maybe we can all get along?" Congress has also debated the issue, and they could yet step in and shape what the FCC can and can't do.

Radke: OK, well painted. Marketplace's Jeff Horwich. Thanks.

Horwich: You're welcome, Bill.

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