Google and Verizon are reportedly in talks over how to manage network traffic, an agreement that could influence how U.S. regulators view network neutrality, according to a report in Thursday's Wall Street Journal.
Verizon confirmed the talks have been ongoing with Google and the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for 10 months, the paper reported.
The agreement would apparently lay out principles around network neutrality, or the belief that service providers should not slow down certain kinds of traffic on their networks. The agreement, however, would reportedly allow service providers to prioritize traffic if customers paid for that kind of service, the paper said.
Network providers have maintained that they need to restrict some kinds of Internet traffic in order to keep a consistent quality of service across their customers bases. That has happened, for example, for file-sharing protocols such as BitTorrent. But it is feared that network providers may unfairly restrict other kinds of applications and protocols for competitive purposes. Wireless networks would not be subject to the agreement, according to the report.
The FCC has been talking to large service providers about how to regulate net neutrality. That has drawn criticism from groups such as Public Knowledge, whose communications director wrote that any agreement between Google and Verizon could be short-lived as it wouldn't have the force of law.
A Google-Verizon deal "is no substitute for a legally binding, comprehensive agreement in the public interest that covers not only network management but universal service and the other issues rolled up in the larger question whether the FCC even has the authority over broadband," wrote Art Brodsky on the group's blog.
Google officials contacted in London said they had no comment.