Google accused of asking fiber subscribers to use common sense

31 July 2013 by Steve Blum
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A server and a thin mint.

When you go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, you don’t expect to be able to fill up an ice chest with lasagne to bring home for a neighborhood block party. Most people accept that common sense puts limits on what are otherwise unlimited offers.

Google is taking heat in a Wired commentary piece by Ryan Singel for telling fiber customers in Kansas City…

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).

The ruckus arose after a man who might or might not live in Kansas City filed a complaint with the FCC

In my professional opinion as a graduate in Computer Engineering from the University of Kansas (and incidentally brother of a google VP) I believe these terms of service are in violation of FCC–10–201.

Over the following 53 mostly single-spaced pages, he tries to make the case that Google is breaking the FCC’s network neutrality rules that it fought hard to see approved.

Singel sees the letter Google sent to the FCC in its own defence as hypocritical, and hyperventilates about all the things that might be considered a server – accessing a home computer from work, networking a digital thermostat, playing Minecraft with friends – and thus banned.

It’s a familiar problem for ISPs: do you issue an encyclopedia sized rule book about what can and can’t be done on a home connection, or do you set vague but easily read and understood rules that rely on good faith and a touch of common sense?

No one knows yet how much Internet bandwidth a large population of residential gigabit subscribers will chew up, but it’s a fair guess that their loading will be more bursty and they’ll consume fewer bits overall than a server farm. Setting common sense rules that draw that distinction is a fair trade for a much lower price – $70 per month versus $500 or more – than a commercial customer would have to pay.