+Comment Google is fighting a legal battle to prevent its Google Fiber subscribers from running servers on their network - and "net neutrality" sympathisers are shocked and appalled.
In the T&Cs for Google's 1GB fibre service, the T&Cs clearly state:
Your Google Fiber account is for your use and the reasonable use of your guests. Unless you have a written agreement with Google Fiber permitting you do so, you should not host any type of server using your Google Fiber connection, use your Google Fiber account to provide a large number of people with Internet access, or use your Google Fiber account to provide commercial services to third parties (including, but not limited to, selling Internet access to third parties).
An individual who is not a Google Fibre customer - because it isn't available in his city - and who states his occupation as "Innovator", shot off a lengthy complaint (PDF) to the FCC arguing that Google violated the FCC's order 10-221, the "net neutrality" rule. The complainant, Doug McClendon, frankly admitted he had not read the order itself:
"Ok, so maybe I haven't slowly, or even completely read every word of 10-201," he admitted in his original filing. But having "skimmed" the rule, he had come to the conclusion that Google violates a legal doctrine McClendon himself has invented, which he calls the "Right to Serve".
In response, Google has told the Federal Communications Commission (PDF) it is merely doing what everyone else does: including rivals AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.
Heroically, McClendon had pre-empted this response in his original complaint (p15). Other ISPs may frown on residential servers, but that's by the by.
The self-styled "internaut*" pleads:
I am in fact trying to shame Google into doing something, that I believe they have the money and power to get away with not doing if they don't want to. In other words, I believe the equal and equally legally unenforceable language in other residential ISPs' terms of service is just as in need of fixing.
Strangely, the internaut adds that his eldest (unnamed) brother "…is a (non-GoogleFiber-related) Vice President at Google alongside Milo Medin in charge of Google Fiber".
Which means Thanksgiving Day is going to be fun over in Kansas. All the same, betrayal abounds:
"That’s not what the net neutrality fight was about," writes Ryan Singel in his account of the dispute at WiReD.
"The fight was intended to make broadband services act like utilities that don’t care what a packet contains or what router, computer, phone or device you use, so long as you aren’t hurting the network."
The Network Neutrality "fight" was actually about many things, depending on who you talked to and at what time of day. For some it was about applying a Rawlsian concept of "justice" to internet packets - so that every packet is treated equally: a weird, synthetic human rights struggle. But it was generally aligned with the interests of OTT players sticking it to the telcos. Google funded and lobbied for "net neutrality" in DC and in Europe.
Should Oompah-Loompahs subsidise over-the-top competitors?
Now Google is a telco, it finds its expedient to stick it to other OTT players. As long-time Google critic Scott Cleland points out:
Google’s current effective net neutrality stance — that a competitive broadband provider can reasonably prohibit a potential competitor from using Google’s Internet access network to compete against Google Fiber — is an important implicit recognition that competitive broadband providers have no regulatory obligation to subsidize over-the-top competitors to their various businesses.
Google adds that it's giving punters 1GB of fibre, with no data caps. So standard network management policy is reasonable. Anyone who doesn't like it can lump it.
In fact as we pointed out three years ago, Google dumped the net neutrality "hippies" in 2008 when it began to build its own infrastructure to support YouTube.
The internet is not a "thing"; it's fundamentally a set of interconnection agreements, ensuring that private and public networks interconnect and co-operate.
(Internetworking. The clue's in the name.)
Internet application technology has advanced at such a clip that modern streaming video simply can't be carried satisfactorily over the public backbone. And today, Google is the largest private network in the world, which gives it a lot of clout. It has also spent a lot of capital on showpiece Fibre — giving it even more clout.
As Alan Patrick, the former McKinsey analyst, first pointed out when Google last angered the net neutrality campaigners in 2010, by signing a rapprochement with Verizon, such a sense of betrayal is both naive and misplaced:
So all the gnashing of teeth and wailing, calling Google a 'Surrender Monkey' is to me a sign of tech bloggers being either largely incompetent or asleep at their terminals for the last 2 years.
Make that five years, Alan. ®
* First coined by Vint Cerf