Net neutrality losing key supporters?

NET NEUTRALITY LOSING KEY SUPPORTERS?…. The Wall Street Journal has a front-page report this morning on the apparent trend of net neutrality “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. […]

Separately, Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. have withdrawn quietly from a coalition formed two years ago to protect network neutrality. Each company has forged partnerships with the phone and cable companies. In addition, prominent Internet scholars, some of whom have advised President-elect Barack Obama on technology issues, have softened their views on the subject.

Included in the “prominent Internet scholars” is Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford law professor and an influential proponent of network neutrality, who the WSJ reports “recently shifted gears” on the issue.

Now, while all of this is discouraging, the WSJ piece may not be entirely right. For example, Lessig posted an item on his own blog about this, and explains why it seems the Journal misrepresented his position. Lessig makes the case, persuasively, that the paper is trying to “gin up a drama,” and that he hasn’t changed his views at all.

What’s more, Google has posted an item on its policy blog, explaining that the WSJ article “is based on a misunderstanding of the way in which the open Internet works,” and there is evidence to suggest Google’s position has also been misrepresented.

That said, as Matt Stoller explains, there is a policy disagreement between Google, Lessig, and the vision embraced by supporters of net neutrality.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.