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3 disappointments from the Google Fiber launch

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After the high of launching yesterday, there are three elements of the Google Fiber announcement that aren’t so awesome. Outside of the compelling pricing, the free service at low-end speeds and the blazing fast speeds, there are a few things that are letdowns of a sort.

Google doesn’t want to share: Soon after announcing plans to build its fiber to the home network Google pledged it would offer an open network that other service providers could use. Then it began backtracking. When I asked Milo Medin, the VP of Access for Google, yesterday about if the network would be open he said it wouldn’t at launch. This makes economic sense given how Google is trying to sign up future users in big groups where it can efficiently deploy its infrastructure.

But disturbingly, when I asked if this meant it would open up the network some time later, he said, “We don’t want me-too providers,” and said that Google is interested in partners that can offer services taking advantage of the gigabit speeds.

It’s closed in another sense: Google has changed the economics of deploying a network by building its own gear, employing social engineering to deploy its fiber to the homes most efficiently and even rethinking the build and deployment of consumer devices such as set-top boxes. But it’s not being open about how it did this and what that really will mean for lowering network costs. Given Google’s past secrecy around its server designs, I’m not sure that ever will beyond hints in research papers.

And since the network isn’t yet deployed and operating, it’s unclear if we’ll ever get information about how well these plans worked out in practice when it comes to lowering the cost, which means Google may have changed the economics of deploying fiber, but it won’t tell anyone else how to do so. Since Google isn’t talking about plans to expand to other places, most of America won’t benefit from its learnings unless that information flows freely.

It gives Google a lot of control and information: Remember all the hullabaloo when ISPs decided to use deep packet inspection technology to see the packets users were sending and then serve ads based on the places their customers surfed? People really didn’t like that and ISPs were forced to abandon the plan to scan users packets as a means of offering targeted ads. Another example might be Project Canoe, the consortium of cable companies that wanted to use technology to see who was watching TV shows and what shows he or she was watching, in order to deliver better ads?

That also failed, although it never got to the point of user outrage. Having Google as your ISP could open users up to these sorts of worries all over again, although for now Google is focused on providing a connection to its other paid or ad-supported products. So for now, Google’s gigabit service just wants to get you to its advertisements faster but it doesn’t want to know where you go.

15 Responses to “3 disappointments from the Google Fiber launch”

  1. Privacy? Why not just get a VPN to Sweden or Holland, and use a TOR connection for that VPN line. If privacy is what you need, then there are options for that. But what do people need to be private about? That they’re looking for Hello Kitty S&M gear? In reality we don’t have any privacy anymore, so why worry about what information Google gets?

  2. Finally google has a winner. It took a while, first search engine, then gmail and now broadband.
    And out of all companies, google is least evil…if there is one company which should profit off me that would be google.

  3. Christopher Rucinski

    “We don’t want me-too providers,” and said that Google is interested in partners that can offer services taking advantage of the gigabit speeds.

    Yeah, that is NOT a problem…those providers are holding up the broadband era (the true broadband era). Why should they get access. Google is teaching them that they HAVE TO innovate to use their services.

    Sounds like a win-win to me. I will wait for that, instead of being pushed the expensive, yet relatively slow Internet service they call “broadband”

  4. yeah….the iGigabit from apple is way better. they always protect your data, and you have the exclusivity to be an apple costumer. you and all your neighbors. only paying the mere fee of 1000 dollars and 200 a month. almost free for all the luxury and exclusivity from apple products.

  5. I have known Milo in the past. He is one of the most honorable people I have ever met. Barring unsavory edicts from higher up, I am confident that Milo will do his best to give customers a fair shake.

  6. geekmomz

    The third point isn’t an issue if you use a VPN, which you should be doing already if you don’t want your provider snooping on your packets.

  7. Brett Glass

    Truth: The “agreement” for Google’s gigabit service does give Google the right to track where you go. Oh, and it prohibits servers. (Do as I say, not as I do; eh, Google?) But GigaOm won’t recognize these things, because Google represents so much of its income stream.

  8. keninca

    I don’t understand how the network can’t be open – are they going to filter or prioritize specific traffic to and from their subscribers? Any company wishing to offer a service to google’s subscribers can do so over layer 3 – which is open enough.

    I view the fact they are building their own equipment as a plus. In all of my fantasies about owning a communications network, I spec and design the equipment that it runs on. That way, I get what the network needs, not what the equipment vendors want to sell, Google is run by engineers, not salesmen or accountants, and it’s usually those two types of executives that insist, because of their ignorance, on designing their network to meet equipment vendors specifications (look at FiOS, they use a cable TV-like mechanism for delivering video over fiber, instead of video over IP, because that’s what the vendors wanted to sell them). As for the open-ness of the STBs and other CPE, vendors rarely disclose that much information, anyway.

    And to your last point, people will soon (in 5 years or less) be encrypting all of their traffic, so the nosy service providers won’t be able to sell that information any more.

    A last comment, I wonder how your friend Brett will spin this into an ad for google.

    • fgoodwin

      There are many ways to define “open” (which is just of many reasons why the whole net neutrality debate is so muddled).

      In this case, the article says google promised originally to make its network open to other *providers* (i.e., other ISPs) but has since back-tracked on that commitment. Given their need to recoup their investment, I’m not surprised. But EVERY facilities-based ISP faces that same problem, yet people whine about cable and telcos not being open to third-party ISPs.

      So google gets a pass but the incumbents don’t — again, not a surprise.

      • keninca

        If you mean they should let ISPs terminate subscriber’s service at their switch, what value does that add? Are you saying that if I pay for a tbit connection to google’s fiber network, I should be allowed to charge subscribers who get their connection routed through my router? I don’t see why that would be necessary, nor how it would add any value.

        Now if you are talking about wireless carriers, who get a pseudo monopoly from the government by way of their license to use public spectrum, that’s a different story.

    • Alan Wynn

      FiOS’s use of standard cable gear means that TiVo and other standard DVR boxes all work out of the box. Building one’s own gear only makes sense if there is a specific value add. SBC (now AT&T), on the other hand, deployed an IP based video infrastructure and had to create it all. It only supports its own gear and so offers no user choices.

      • keninca

        Verizon does not only not care if their subscribers can use TiVo with FiOS, they don’t want them to. Verizon and every other tv service provider want subscribers to use their services, and not somebody else’s solution for free.

        There is a huge value add for google subscribers to use their gear – it’s less expensive. Cable DVRs incur a monthly fee, which is absurd, as there is no value added to the hardware.

        An IP video delivery system is a huge advancement over the cable TV architecture; saying we should stick with the obsolete system is like saying we should have stuck with horses instead of cars because cars required a new infrastructure.

  9. Madlyb

    “So for now, Google’s gigabit service just wants to get you to its advertisements faster but it doesn’t want to know where you go.”

    This is because they already know…everything.