TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Bill Radke: There’s a deal reportedly in the works between Google and Verizon that could upset the apple cart of what’s known as “net neutrality.” This is the idea that all Internet content- from YouTube videos to eBay listings to this show’s podcast get treated the same by Internet Service Providers. These are the telephone and cable companies that control the pipelines of the Web. The agreement between Google and Verizon could set the stage for big companies to pay for the privilege of speeding up delivery of their own content to consumers. Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman is here to help us bushwhack through the weeds of “net neutrality.” Good morning, Mitchell.
Mitchell Hartman: Good morning, Bill.
Radke: What might a deal between Verizon and Google mean?
Hartman: Well right now, the cable and telephone companies don’t speed up or slow down the flow of information to our computers, depending on what website it’s coming from. But think about it: someone who downloads tons of TV shows or YouTube videos, that uses up a lot of bandwidth. Companies like Verizon would like to charge more for that — let Google, for instance, which owns YouTube, pay to give priority to YouTube videos priority getting to our computers. And we might end up paying part of that bill with tiered pricing for Internet just like we now have for premium cable. Reports are sketchy on this deal — reports in Bloomberg and the New York Times — neither company is commenting, and we don’t know how it might affect smart phones.
Radke: And what is the problem with letting the Internet evolve in that direction?
Hartman: Well, you know if some big company, Google or Amazon or eBay, gets to buy access to the fast lane, somebody else’s content is going to be left in the slow lane. Somebody who isn’t paying millions of dollars to Verizon or AT&T or Comcast — a library, struggling online magazines, whatever. So to consumer and open-Internet advocates, these kinds of deals are basically the death knell of “net neutrality.” Now the FCC is trying to work out regulations to keep the playing field of the Internet somewhat level going forward, but it probably doesn’t have the legal authority to do that right now.
Radke: OK, Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman. Mitchell, thanks.
Hartman: You’re welcome.
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