When Google was just a mighty search engine, the company championed an open, unfettered Internet. Now that it’s selling ultra-fast broadband Internet and TV service in Kansas City, Mo., with plans to repeat the service elsewhere, the tech giant bars customers from hosting servers on the Google Fiber network without written permission.
In some tech circles, that’s seen as at least a partial reversal by Google, one that might undercut the company’s position in coming regulatory battles over the concept known as net neutrality.
In the past, Google has been an outspoken advocate for net neutrality, a set of regulations that prevent Internet service providers from giving a preference to any type of Internet traffic over another or blocking any lawful content, applications, services or devices.
Google Fiber spokeswoman Jenna Wandres said in a statement that the company’s stance on net neutrality hadn’t changed.
“Google is a strong supporter of the open Internet,” Wandres said.
Yet in the fine print of Google Fiber’s terms of service, legally binding language forbids customers from hosting any type of server “unless you have a written agreement with Google Fiber permitting you to do so.”
“It really does feel like an about-face,” said Dan Andresen, an associate professor of computing and information sciences at Kansas State University. “There is kind of a sense of betrayal or concern that we thought Google was different (from other Internet service providers) and it turns out they aren’t.”