Google and Verizon Near Pact to Sell Web Priority. Goodbye, Net Neutrality?

Google (GOOG) and Verizon (VZ) are in talks to allow the big Internet service provider to speed up the delivery of online content to Web users if the content's creators pay for this, according to a report by The New York Times. Citing sources close to the discussion, the Times says the agreement could be reached as soon as next week.

With such deals, deep-pocketed content sites could pay to ensure that their content received priority over other sites as it made its way to consumers. Such agreements may eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users. The pioneering pact between Google and Verizon, if finalized, could overturn the tenet of Net neutrality, in which no form of content is favored over another -- it's something consumer advocates are fighting fiercely to protect.

The Times also says any deal "could also upend the efforts of the Federal Communications Commission to assert its authority over broadband service, which was severely restricted by a federal appeals court decision in April." The publication also reports that a Verizon spokesman said that the company was still engaged in the larger talks to reach a consensus at the FCC and declined to comment on other negotiations.