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Google, Verizon deny talks about Web pay tiers

Google and Verizon Wireless said Thursday the two companies are not looking to create pay tiers for certain Web sites on mobile phones.

Google and Verizon Wireless said Thursday the two companies are not looking to create pay tiers for certain Web sites on mobile phones.

"We've not had any convos with (Verizon) about paying for carriage of our traffic," Google said on Twitter. "We remain committed to an open Internet."

A New York Times story about the talks "is mistaken," said David Fish, Verizon's executive director of media relations wrote on the company's public policy blog. "It fundamentally misunderstands our purpose. As we said in our earlier FCC filing, our goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation. To suggest this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect."

Verizon Wireless has acknowledged having talks with Google over the past 10 months about Internet traffic to cell phones. The two companies have a common interest, with Verizon now carrying so many phones using the Google-backed, Android-based operating system. Such phones are quickly coming to dominate the smart phone landscape in the United States.

However, Google has been one of the big forces behind the Open Internet Coalition, which supports "network neutrality," the notion that no Internet content should be blocked, slowed or given preference on Internet networks in any way to users in the United States. Verizon Wireless, like other wireless carriers, has not been as big a fan of the idea with concerns about network congestion.

The Times reported that 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.

"The charges could be paid by companies, like YouTube, owned by Google, for example, to Verizon, one of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, to ensure that its content received priority as it made its way to consumers. The agreement could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users."

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal said Thursday that Google and Verizon Wireless may be announcing an agreement that could be "used as a model for legislation aimed at preventing telephone or cable companies from delaying or blocking Internet traffic," counter to The New York Times' report. That agreement could be announced Friday, the Journal said.

The Times' report of Google and Verizon Wireless' talks was met with with outrage by public interest groups that favor network neutrality.

No matter what discussions Google and Verizon Wireless are having, "The fate of the Internet is too large a matter to be decided by negotiations involving two companies, even companies as big as Verizon and Google," said Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge.

The Federal Communications Commission has been pushing for net neutrality, but was blocked by a federal appeals court last spring, when the court ruled the FCC does not have the authority to make Internet service providers adhere to such regulations.

Since then, the FCC has been trying to get the major wireless carriers, Internet service providers and other key players together for talks in private to has out the issues tied to net neutrality. On Thursday, the agency said it is abandoning those efforts.