Google’s latest update on ISP usage: foul or fair?

By Greg Turnquist

Greg L. Turnquist worked on the Spring team for over thirteen years and is a senior staff technical content engineer at Cockroach Labs. He was the lead for Spring Data JPA and Spring Web Services. He wrote Packt's best-selling title, Learning Spring Boot 2.0 2nd Edition, and its 3rd Edition follow-up along many others.

July 31, 2013

Apparently, Google has revised their stance on net neutrality, and it has many people in an uproar. With their Google Fiber project hosted in Kansas City, they have a clause in their terms-of-service that clearly limits people from running commercial servers out of their homes. People can get optical fiber cable from here!

In truth, many ISPs have similar clauses restricting you from running a business out of your home unless you upgrade (pay more). This is actually not surprising. If you are merely a consumer, the chance of you gobbling up too much bandwidth is remote. Need more bandwidth? Pay up.

I found the comments in the article quite telling. Many people argue how unfair it is that Google would impose such a restriction and find it ghastly to not be allowed to do anything they want with their 1 Gbps service. One comment stood out though, providing a thoughtful analogy of what’s at stake:

“…The best analogy I can think of is that a customer at a restaurant can take as many napkins, sugar packets and plastic spoons as they like, there isn’t a fixed limit. But when someone comes in, buys a single coffee and takes ALL the napkins, sugar packets and plastic spoons and uses those at his own restaurant he is no longer making a reasonable or fair use of the consumer product he paid for.” –max232

That is what I was thinking, but couldn’t find the words. Google may not have the means to prohibit you from coming in and taking all that stuff after the fact. Extending the analogy, they are just trying to watch out for people that show up with a giant basket, clearly armed to perform such an act.

What does all this point out? Buried amidst all the discussions are whether or not this violates net neutrality, and whether or not this would be legal if net neutrality was an existing law or regulation. I don’t want to deal with whether or not something is legal. I would rather let the free market sort it all out.

If Google is going to be outrageous in their definition running “servers” out of your home, or charge absurd tier rates, people will dump them fast and return back to regular cable service. The word will get out, and either Google Fiber will die or they’ll reform their policies to get customers back. But this is certainly faster and more likely to reach an equitable solution than a lobbied congressman ever will.

I don’t want to hear arguments for the next thirty years about who has bought off congress regarding the Internet. But if net neutrality moves forward and we end up with the government regulating the Internet, you can count on elected officials of all parties politicizing the Internet when it suits their purpose. Is that something you look forward to? Not me. The Internet has done well enough and grown fast enough without the aid of pandering politicians on CSPAN. We don’t need them sticking their noses into yet another thing they don’t understand but are expected to make “fair”. I prefer Google, AT&T, Comcast, and Apple to battle stuff out in the free market, and keep making better and cheaper stuff for us, rather than battling with some appointed regulator who was picked 30 years ago by President Xyz.


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