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In a dramatic about-face on a key internet issue yesterday, Google told the FCC that the network neutrality rules Google once championed don’t give citizens the right to run servers on their home broadband connections, and that the Google Fiber network is perfectly within its rights to prohibit customers from attaching the legal devices of their choice to its network.
At issue is Google Fiber’s Terms of Service, which contains a broad prohibition against customers attaching “servers” to its ultrafast 1 Gbps network in Kansas City.
Google wants to ban the use of servers because it plans to offer a business class offering in the future. A potential customer, Douglas McClendon, filed a complaint against the policy in 2012 with the FCC, which eventually ordered Google to explain its reasoning by July 29.
In its response, Google defended its sweeping ban by citing the very ISPs it opposed through the years-long fight for rules that require broadband providers to treat all packets equally.
“Google Fiber’s server policy is consistent with policies of many major providers in the industry,” Google Fiber lawyer Darah Smith Franklin wrote, going on to quote AT&T, Comcast and Verizon’s anti-server policies.You Cannot Run Servers On Google's Home Broadband [wired.com]
The problem is that a server, by definition, doesn’t have to be a dedicated expensive computer. Any PC or Mac can be a server, as can all sorts of computing devices. Moreover, the net neutrality rules (.pdf)regarding devices are plain and simple: ”Fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.” But Google’s legally binding Terms of Service outlaw Google Fiber customers from running their own mail server, using a remotely accessible media server, SSHing into a home computer from work to retrieve files, running a Minecraft server for friends to share, using a Nest thermometer, using a nanny camera to watch over a childcare provider or using a Raspberry Pi to host a WordPress blog.