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Did Google change its stance on net neutrality? [updated]

July 31st, 2013 at 11:50 AM
Google Fiber Net Neutrality

Now that Google is an ISP, it’s started to act more like one. Wired reports that Google has barred a “potential” Google Fiber customer from attaching a server to its network, which the customer alleges is in violation of the Federal Communications Commission’s network neutrality guidelines. Google says that barring servers from its network is perfectly in line with reasonable network management practices and that users can run servers over Google Fiber if they get the company’s permission first.

“Your Google Fiber account is for your use and the reasonable use of your guests,” the company wrote to the Fiber customer. “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.”

The trouble, Wired notes, is that the technical definition of a server means that it doesn’t have to be an expensive computer and can be “any PC or Mac.” What’s more, the FCC’s net neutrality guidelines say that ISPs cannot bar any “lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices,” so Google will have to explain how the customer’s server would be harmful to its network in order to be compliant with net neutrality regulations.

UPDATE: Google writes in to say that the “potential” customer in question cited by the Wired article doesn’t live in a part of Kansas City that can yet get Google Fiber. The company has also passed along the following statement reaffirming its support for net neutrality:

Google is a strong supporter of the open Internet and our stance here hasn’t changed. This is a standard practice of network management, and as we said in our filing, the policy does not prevent legal, noncommercial use of applications such as multi-player gaming, video-conferencing, and home security.

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