Previously in Tech at Night we heard that Google had been accused of violating the FCC’s Open Internet order, also known as Net Neutrality. The stated purpose of Net Neutrality is to prevent ISPs from discriminating between one kind of Internet traffic, and another, in order to bolster its own services.
Google as web services provider was a strong proponent of the new regulations. However in Google’s response to the Net Neutrality complaint, Google has come out in favor of discrimination, asserting that because discrimination against “server” traffic is an industry standard, Google is within its rights to continue that discrimination in the Net Neutrality era. Google, in defending its own Net Neutrality violation, is citing the pre-Net Neutrality industry standards it repeatedly claimed were dangerous and harmful to Americans.
Note that in the same Wired report, we learn that Google plans to release a “business” service, presumably at a higher price, to support servers.
Of course, they’re claiming that they’re within the law, but it’s clear they are not.
Let’s be clear: the Google practice is discriminatory, but it is also an industry-standard practice. ISPs in the DSL and Cable era, going into the Fiber era, traditionally even blocked ports that are used by common Internet services, such as SMTP, HTTP, or FTP. The idea was that blocking a very tiny percentage of users, the very high traffic users, would preserve the quality of low-end commodity service for all. Those high traffic users would be required to pay more for their high usage.
However, the Open Internet order makes it clear in paragraph 48 that “open Internet rules applicable to fixed broadband providers should protect all types of Internet traffic, not just voice or video Internet traffic.” Which means Google Fiber’s terms of service run afoul of paragraphs 62-64 which state that ISPs may not block people “to use and provide applications and services,” and that this refers to “all traffic transmitted from end users of a broadband Internet access service, including traffic that may not fit cleanly into any of these categories.” However running servers rather cleanly falls into the category of providing a service.
Google’s defense apparently relies on paragraph 68, which allows “Reasonable network management shall not constitute unreasonable discrimination.” I don’t buy this as general defense of Google’s terms of service, given that Net Neutrality now is the law. A Bittorrent seeder could be a harmful number of connections, flooding the network, especially if copyright infringement is involved. But email, web, or IRC? I don’t buy it. Google Fiber is sold as a Gigabit connection (upload and download) designed to stream HD television. They also brag of “No data caps.”
So the only question left is: Will the Obama FCC act on this, as long as Net Neutrality is the law of the land, or will Google get the preferential treatment of a blind eye turned its way?