There has been much hoopla regarding Google Fiber coming to Austin, TX. Yeah! One gigabit download and upload speeds! Not so fast…as with anything digital, the devil is in the details. From the Kansas City implementation, Google offers a choice: Gigabit Internet at $70/month or Gigabit Internet + TV at $120/month. Both of these plans waive the $300 installation fee. So far, so good. $120/month is on par with cable companies.
Focusing in Internet service alone, the first thing you’ll receive is a Google Fiber Network Box. It is billed as a gigabit router, high performance Wi-Fi, and a Gigabit Firewall. In the tech business, a “black box” system is one where you don’t know what is going on inside. Google’s offer here is literal, too:
So, what are the contracts required for service? Moving to their “Privacy and Terms” page for Google Fiber and selecting “Terms of Service”, there is:
You agree not to misuse the Services. […]. A list of examples of prohibited activities appears here.
So, let’s see what Google thinks is improper:
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).
Respect copyright. Upload and download only content that you are authorized to use or access.
Do not circumvent, disable, or otherwise modify any security features or other limitations Google Fiber places on any services it provides.
Comply with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations when utilizing Google Fiber’s services.
No servers?! That’s a real shame considering a subscriber has a 1 GbE up-link. And why is running a server lumped in with infringing on rights of others? There are countless server programs that respect rights and simply provide utility. If Google truly valued innovation, it should embrace allowing customers to host their own server programs.
These notices, along with the black box give Google tremendous power of their customers. We already know that Google was accused and admitted to snooping and storing unencrypted WiFi signals everywhere it could. What does the black box really do? It’s fair to say that it may analyze usage to ensure the terms of service are met. Yet…where do these analyses go, and for how long?
A real test of Google’s honesty in providing Internet access is if you can buy and manage your own router/firewall. Cable companies do this. You are welcome to buy your own cable-modem instead of leasing one from your provider. This proves that a cable-modem is nominal in its value to the cable companies. For Google Fiber, the black box is everything. Since it is acting as a firewall, it knows of every device you have in your home, with which parties they communicate, when, and for how long. Can it intercept and decrypt SSL traffic?
Can Google be trusted?
Don’t be evil?