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Google prepping broadband-monitoring tools

Internet giant is reportedly developing a suite of tools to help broadband users identify traffic discrimination by their Internet service providers.

When it comes to your broadband connection, Google wants you to know that it has your back.

The Internet giant is developing a suite of tools to help broadband users identify traffic discrimination by their Internet service providers, according to a report in The Register.

"We're trying to develop tools, software tools...that allow people to detect what's happening with their broadband connections, so they can let (ISPs) know that they're not happy with what they're getting--that they think certain services are being tampered with," Google Senior Policy Director Richard Whitt said Friday morning during a panel discussion at the Innovation '08 conference in Santa Clara, Calif. "If the broadband providers aren't going to tell you exactly what's happening on their networks, we want to give users the power to find out for themselves."

Whitt argues that innovation among application developers will stagnate without neutral networks, and he wants to see consumers join an "arms race" for Net neutrality--the idea that network operators shouldn't be allowed to discriminate against content or applications or charge extra fees.

"The forces aligned against us are real. They've been there for decades. Their pockets are deep. Their connections are strong with those in Washington," he said. "Maybe we can turn this into an arms race on the application software side rather a political game."

Whitt would not say when the tools will be available or how they would work, but did indicate that Google engineers had been working on them for a while.

The issue came to a head last August when TorrentFreak reported that Comcast was surreptitiously interfering with file transfers by posing as one party and then, essentially, hanging up the phone. Comcast denied the allegation, but tests conducted by the Associated Press showed Comcast was actively interfering with peer-to-peer networks even if relatively small files were being transferred.

In response, the Federal Communications Commission announced it would investigate the charges, and in May, a bill was re-introduced into Congress that would rewrite U.S. antitrust law to prohibit network operators like AT&T and Comcast from blocking, impairing, or discriminating against "lawful" Internet content, applications, and services or from charging extra fees for "prioritization or enhanced quality of service."

Google has long argued that it's necessary to enact new regulations barring such activity, while broadband operators like AT&T and Comcast counter that the market will solve any perceived problems.