Scott Cleland, president of Precursor LLC, a research firm bankrolled by telecom heavyweights like AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., released a report on Thursday saying that Google uses 21 times more bandwidth than it pays for. The study (download PDF) estimates that Google accounted for 16.5% of all U.S. consumer Internet traffic this year; that number is predicted to jump to 25% in 2009 and 37% in 2010.
"Internet connections could be more affordable for everyone if Google paid its fair share of the Internet's cost," wrote Cleland in the report. "It is ironic that Google, the largest user of Internet capacity pays the least relatively to fund the Internet's cost; it is even more ironic that the company poised to profit more than any other from more broadband deployment, expects the American taxpayer to pick up its skyrocketing bandwidth tab."
Google, however, isn't taking the criticism lying down.
Posting a response on the Google Public Policy Blog, Richard Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel, noted that since Cleland is paid by the phone and cable companies, he's not exactly a neutral party.
"Not surprisingly, in his zeal to score points in the Net neutrality debate, he made significant methodological and factual errors that undermine his report's conclusions," wrote Whitt, calling Cleland's cost estimates "overblown."
"First and foremost, there's a huge difference between your own home broadband connection, and the Internet as a whole. It's the consumers voluntarily choosing to use our applications who are actually using their own broadband bandwidth -- not Google. To say that Google somehow 'uses' consumers' home broadband connections shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Internet actually works."
Net neutrality has been a scorching hot button issue for months now. Google, Microsoft Corp. and other major Internet site operators have joined with small Web site owners to oppose broadband providers like AT&T and Verizon that want to offer faster network performance to companies that pay more. The issue has been dubbed Net neutrality by those who oppose a two-tier system of access and pricing.
Google co-founder and president Sergey Brin even met with U.S. lawmakers last summer to press for legislation that would prevent Internet access providers from charging Web sites more for faster content delivery.
It's also well known that Cleland has no qualms about taking shots at Google. Whitt went so far as to refer to the analyst's report as "payola punditry."
"We don't fault Mr. Cleland for trying to do his job," wrote Whitt. "But it's unfortunate that the phone and cable companies funding his work would rather launch poorly researched broadsides than help solve consumers' problems."