Net Neutrality forever! Wait, never mind…

When you’ve written as much as I have about the weird Web topic known as “network neutrality,” this is big news indeed.

The celebrated openness of the Internet — network providers are not supposed to give preferential treatment to any traffic — is quietly losing powerful defenders.

Google Inc. has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Google has traditionally been one of the loudest advocates of equal network access for all content providers.

What some innocuously call “equal network access,” others call meddlesome regulation. Net neutrality could potentially provide a platform for Congress and the FCC to micromanage everything on the Net, from wires and switches to applications and services to the bits and bytes themselves. It is a potentially monstrous threat to dynamic innovation on the fast-growing Net, where experimentation still reigns. 

But now Google, a newly powerful force in Washington and Obamaland, may be reversing course 180-degrees. The regulatory threat level may have just dropped from orange to yellow.

Update: Richard Bennett expertly comments here.

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