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.

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