Google is quietly negotiating for preferential treatment from Internet providers in an about-face from its staunch support of equal network access for all content providers. The move could spark an industry-wide race for Internet "fast lanes" that would discriminate against less-funded sites and potentially curb users' online choices, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Microsoft and Yahoo have also abandoned their support of the "net neutrality" principle that bars cable and phone companies from allowing individual content suppliers to leapfrog others. The new battle lines are setting the stage for a fight in Washington next year. Barack Obama has pledged to keep the Net as is, arguing that when "smaller voices get squeezed out, we all lose." Internet carriers argue that content companies should help finance upgrades, and that charging for fast lanes could accomplish that.