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Google Fiber now allows servers for non-commercial use (googleprotest.com)
357 points by pontifier 1289 days ago | hide | past | web | 151 comments | favorite



I still don't think this comports with the net neutrality rules, which focus on network management at a user/protocol level. Commercial/non-commercial is a business distinction -- which is exactly what net neutrality was meant to stop (e.g. Comcast throttling BitTorrent).

Google Fiber shouldn't care a whit if my server is commercial or non-commercial (what does that even mean?) If my usage hurts the network, then GF can throttle my connection in some way that is disclosed as a policy and which is considered reasonable.

This is a half-assed compromise and it's not in line with either the spirit or the clear language of net neutrality.

(Full Disclosure: I wrote the Wired article that set off this storm.)


It started as a contractual distinction. Home DSL is cheaper because it is not guaranteed to be up so you can't sue your ISP for lost business, etc...

Then the big telcos got the game, and started to elaborate among themselves how to remove service and add fees.

Someone saw the non-commercial vanilla clause, and had the great idea of using that premise to shut down inbound connections by the most insanely idiotic assumption that a listening port is a server which is foolproof indication that you have a business.

Then everyone move to the telco that didn't do that, free market at its best. for about 6 months. until all of them did. nobody had any option. and here we are today.


I was in the cable industry and I believe it started there. Originally there were two types of cable modems ... LanCity produced a symmetrical 10Mbps system and Motorola produced a (from what I remember) 3Mbps downstream and 512Kbps upstream.

Both the upstream and the downstream systems were shared among the 250 or so homes fed from a fiber-optic node, and the performance of your system was related to what your neighbors were doing with their Internet (this is still the case). When DOCSIS was standardized, they started with the Motorola QAM system. The whole cable system is tailored to deliver information to a home, with a very limited upstream, which is the exact opposite of what's needed for a high-bandwidth server (which needs relatively little downstream and a very large upstream.

Internet as originally provided outside of dial-up was expensive (I was paying $700 per month for 1/3 T1 in the mid-nineties), and the phone companies were pocketing a large amount of money from business customers who were buying Internet OR connecting their facilities with frame-relay. When home DSL became available, the telcos didn't want to cannibalize their business service, so the no-servers, home service tiers there are protecting the (now significantly cheaper) business tier cash flow.

I had a rack of servers in my basement that were Internet connected, and I can tell you that for outbound services (web content etc), my customers/readers/users get much better performance being served by a single $20/month Linode server than they ever did through my line-of-sight microwave connection. Even beyond the last mile, the distribution plant isn't a place for anything but a hobby server.


I run a very non-busy website on my home server. Its got ads so I guess its a business. Seems petty to ban such things. (Not on Google Fiber)


The friction in these situations generally comes from the hand-wavey definition of server. Google doesn't care about your website as it currently exists. They do care if it turns into boingboing, or something more commercial.

Clearly defining the point at which the line is crossed hamstrings them when unforseen situations arise. Not clearly defining it allows for capricious enforcement. At either end of the spectrum one party loses out. This middle ground allows for both parties to be happy much of the time, but that's not to say no improvements can be made.

I would hope serious proposals for change would take both parties into account and try to find a better compromise.


> They do care if it turns into boingboing

Why? Really why? I'm buying a certain number of bits per second. They don't need to know nor should care about the content of those bits.

If they oversubscribe and sell bandwidth "bursting" up to X, but only a small fraction of X for a sustained period then they should have to advertise that clearly and not claim "X bandwidth connection". Rather than burying it in a TOS.


Because it let's them provide better service (as defined as what most people care about) to the majority of people. Better, in the context is cheaper and faster. Do you think they can provide the same speed for the same price without any limitations? I don't believe so, but feel free to make your case.

Note that by previous internet usage patterns the sustained usage of an shared upstream connection wouldn't necessarily result in less than maximum speed if provisioned correctly based on usage levels. That may be different now with more video streaming, but only in scale, not in principle.


If you're running a business then you _must_ read the TOS. It's a contract between you and the provider. You can (largely) get away with not reading it if you're a personal user, but if your business depends on something then you need to understand the small print.


I'm buying a certain number of bits per second.

You are paying for a given usage profile, and the economics are based around that usage profile. A few leaches can exist for a given economic expectation, but beyond that everyone suffers.


Then, like I said, they should advertise they are selling "a usage profile" and not bandwidth. There are laws that protect consumers from being misled.

Leaches, wtf?

Should the power company be able too ban you from using the electricity they sell you to power a saw? If you do, are you then leeching from the other electricity customers?


Google isn't being misleading any more than a landlord. You can't run an auto repair shop in an apartment complex; they usually forbid that in the lease.

Just because you purchased 800 square feet (or 1Gbps), doesn't mean you can do whatever you want with it.


Actually, that's exactly what the net neutrality rules say and that's the point of the internet.

Any legal device connecting to any legal service so long as you don't harm the network.


Simply making money is not enough to classify your website as commercial. Also, it is likely your website costs you money when you factor in hardware, electricity, and programing time. Even if you make money your website probably still counts as hobby unless you have incorporated or are running it like you would run a business.


If there was a hard, fast rule, CC wouldn't have run a study to figure out what on earth "non commercial" actually means - http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Defining_Noncommercial


Good point. I am definitely not making a profit.


I agree with everything that you said however consider the possibility of every residential building being bought out and replaced with a server farm along the locations where googfib is first being laid out. I think we can understand why google doesn't really want that right now?


That's a network utilization issue for Google, and a zoning law issue for the local government.

Delineating allowed usage of network infrastructure you pay for based on whethet its commercial or not is a pretty clear net neutrality violation to me.


I added a link to your article, as well as a link to the discussion here.


Youre absolutely right. I read the page post for this and thought "Google fiber prevents servers from accessing their network" this seems dirty to me. Trying to force the public to use Google services... they are starting to scare me...


Which part of the Open Internet Order do you think this violates?


No blocking. Fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices; mobile broadband providers may not block lawful websites, or block applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services.

Blocking users from running servers runs afoul of the blocking rule. As long as my website is lawful why should they be allowed to block it? Nothing in the rules says it has to be a technological means of blocking, a T&Cs block seems like it would be equally covered.


To save people from looking, it has been changed to;

--- To operate servers for commercial purposes. However, personal, non-commercial use of servers that complies with this AUP is acceptable, including using virtual private networks (VPN) to access services in your home and using hardware or applications that include server capabilities for uses like multi-player gaming, video-conferencing, and home security. ---


They specifically left email off of that list. The question is: can I host servers that may compete with the commercial offerings of Google? Can I host my personal blog? Can I host my personal email server?


I doubt they are trying to cut off competition to GMail. Email is blocked typically as a matter of convention by the majority of ISPs. It requires features 99.9% of customers don't care about in the slightest, and invites spam problems.


It may be blocked by the ISPs that service a majority of people (i.e. cable companies), but I don't have any reason to think that it's blocked by a majority of ISPs.


Indeed. Chances of a random person accidentally setting up an open email relay of some sort are high.


Although an open email relay would probably be some other violation of the AUP, methinks.

(warning: haven't actually read AUP.)


I actually butted heads with this part of the AUP when I was a teenager.

I was young, naive, and trying to set up my own mail server. Ended up creating an open SMTP relay instead.

Received a phone call within 15 minutes of successfully testing my mail server! They were calling to tell me they suspect a computer in my house has a virus. I chatted with support for a while and we eventually figured out it was my mail server.

They were rather pleasant about it actually, they explained that it doesn't necessarily violate their AUP but it's hard to configure a mail server correctly.

I'd later learn that since my IP address was from their dynamically allocated pool: most popular mail servers would reject my messages as spam anyways.

---

This was with TimeWarner cable about 7 or 8 years ago.


Most likely. But it's trivial to see whether or not someone is running an SMTP server whereas it's more difficult to determine if they're running an open relay.


Wouldn't it be a simple matter of just trying to send an email using the server in question? If you receive the email you just sent, then it's an open relay.


So now you have to have an email account somewhere that allows anything and everything to be sent to it (no spam filtering), and you need a system to send emails and correlate that with received emails. This is all certainly possible and not necessarily that difficult, but compared to seeing if a service is running on port 25 it's about a hojillion times more hassle.


You don't need to send. Send "helo", "mail from" and "rcpt to" commands and most servers that are not open relays will reject the message after the rcpt to. Issue a "data", and most remaining ones will. At which point you can disconnect without sending any e-mails. Open relay testers are dime a dozen.


Surely yes, but they probably don't want to go through the trouble of tracking them down one by one- and doing so on a continuing, never-ending basis.


I'm surprised to hear that. I've never had a problem with an ISP blocking SMTP.


Inbound on port 25? I know my ISP does


Mine doesn't (Roadrunner). I run my own SMTP server off my cable modem. I have no problems getting incoming mail. Outgoing, however, was a pain because so many SMTP servers block mail coming from dynamic IPs. It annoys me to no end. I understand the reasons for doing it, but it annoys me to no end. I had to set up a small satellite server on a static IP that I route all my outgoing mail through.


This leads me to wonder why you run any portion of your mail server from your home if you have access to a small satellite server?


To search your home, a warrant is needed. To search a remote site, less is needed, and you might never know it’s been searched, back-doored and compromised.


Mostly because the small satellite server requires very little storage, cpu, or memory. I have about 100G of mail on my IMAP server (not all in one account: I run email for everyone in my family), and that kind of space isn't cheap in the server rental business (despite the fact that a 2TB drive is $90).

Plus I just like having my data here, and not somewhere where I have no physical access.


Come to think of it, I've never looked at inbound stuff. You'd think outbound would be where all the spam problems come from, though.


> You'd think outbound would be where all the spam problems come from, though.

They block port 25 to prevent open relays on their network (i.e. someone sends a forged email, the SMTP server does no authentication, and just forwards it on to the destination).


If you block 25 outbound, people's mail clients (Outlook, Thunderbird, etc) could not deliver mail to servers that don't run SSL or TLS (465, 587)


Lots of ISPs does this. They require you to relay via their SMTP-server.


Ideally you would use port 587, which is the designated port for mail submission. See RFC 2476 [1].

This requires that your mail provider supports that port, of course, which is unfortunately not always the case.

[1] http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2476.txt


Used to have Bellsouth DSL, and they did this. SMTP/TLS on a different port worked though. But obviously you couldn't run your own e-mail server.


Actually an email server that provides mail for you is a 'non commercial use', it would be commercial if you were offering other people email accounts on it and charging them for it.

It gets a little bit dicey if you host your blog on a server (btw I just setup Ghost on an Rpi and it makes for a very cute little blog-pliance) and your blog has ads and provides you with an income stream.


Although if your blog has Adwords, maybe they wouldn't mind... :)


I do not think that is an exhaustive list. The only thing it excludes are commercial operations, so I would assume that yes, you can run personal services (even services you share freely with friends or strangers), but that you cannot try to monetize those services. IANAL though.


I think that they might have an issue with you hosting the "Next Facebook" from your house, even if it's not a commercial operation.


You will most likely be not able to host a personal email server from a residential ISP without an IPv4 address tunnel, anyway.

Without a proper reverse DNS record and an IP address not from a residential pool, most properly configured servers will reject emails immediately (in order to combat spam).


I've had no trouble paying a little extra for static IPs, not to mention delegated reverse DNS, over the past 15 years.


Of course, it all depends on the ISP. I've had nothing but denials over the years each time I've tried to request a static IP address, let alone PTR record delegation.


To be sure, I have chosen my ISPs with this requirement over the years.


Or P2P services, which could potentially present a greater threat to Google. Only a small fraction of network users are willing and able to run a personal server, and even those that do aren't capable of competing with Google in terms of hardware.

Decentralized content sharing could remove those obstacles, and a high bandwidth network could facilitate the adoption of P2P services.


I suspect that if the P2P client ran google's ads they wouldn't be opposed.

Google is pretty savvy to P2P, but it does remove their ability to push ads at you. The latter is what would bother them.


Had Google actually taken action against anyone hosting a server? I guess this is more of a T&C clarification than anything else, i.e they would of not actually taken action against non-commercial servers anyway.


Still no rule against it is much better than an unenforced rule against it.


Out of curiosity, why is there a prohibition on a particular type of activity and not just on bandwidth or similar? I understand that this is a fairly common provision, and not specific to Google Fiber at all.


Being able to handle everyone using their connections to the full at all times would require being able to deal with massively more usage then you ever practically see. I'm a pretty heavy user, I work with data sets, watch a lot of streaming TV, have several video chats every day and I also download games through things like Steam.

My usage was less than 15% of what I could use (and that's with a slow connection, I'd not use significantly more data if my connection improved).

This means they can plan around particular users and everyone gets a decent deal. Remember that if they had to have the capacity of (max speed) * (number of people) then I'd just get a slower connection for the same price.

Now, someone running a server could massively outstrip my usage because they're not one person reading reddit but a machine serving millions of people. That breaks the expectations, and means all the actual people do worse off.


"Being able to handle everyone using their connections to the full at all times would require being able to deal with massively more usage then you ever practically see"

So what? All that means is that you can oversell throughput. How does it imply that people cannot or should not be running any particular service over their connection?

The real barrier to hosting commercial services on residential connections should be technical. Your service has little to no uptime guarantee, little to no throughput guarantee, and no guarantee of a static IP address (though with dynamic DNS this might not really matter). That is enough to discourage commercial services, at least at any scale that anyone could care about.


> How does it imply that people cannot or should not be running any particular service over their connection?

To limit the number of people massively over-using their connection?

> The real barrier to hosting commercial services on residential connections should be technical.

Those are just reasons why a service would be unreliable. This would give another good reason for the split, occasional downtime wouldn't render a home connection to be branded as "not fit for purpose". You can't claim it was mis-sold if you were explicitly told you can't run commercial services on it.


It's not overuse if you're using the bandwidth that is advertised. If they can't handle you using the bandwidth, then they shouldn't offer it.


Did you read my comment? To do that they'd have to cut all the speeds drastically, but charge the same.


That's their problem, not mine. I'm not the one that lied to get business.


I'd have a worse service for the same money. It would force the situation to always be exactly the same as the worst possible situation now (everyone using it at the same time), assuming it was done perfectly. How is that their problem? How is me getting a slower service for the same price not my problem?

Second, where did they lie? My terms and conditions explicitly state that speed is dependent on many factors, including the number of active users.


No, you'd have the same service for the same money. It would just be labeled correctly, and not a complete fabrication.


I would expect this to be to allow market segmentation and price discrimination. A business might be willing and able to pay more for internet service than an individual, but less likely so if they could get the same thing for the individual's price.


I'm sure this is coming with Fiber. But for early stage products (technically Fiber only has three "customers" right now-KC, Austin and Provo), one of the best things you can do to encourage uptake is keep your pricing drop-dead simple. I think they are just trying to balance that simplicity with keeping it fair by not allowing commercial servers. A couple businesses taking advantage of a system that wasn't built for them could wreck the speeds for everyone, and Fiber's reputation going forward.


Google is smart enough to write an equation that says what usage patterns are too much to be fair usage of their network for $70/month. Then they could (in theory) publish it as part of their Terms and Conditions rather than have a "non-commercial" clause. I wonder how that would work in practice...


Because not all internet is equal.

Most ISP's give home users a significant discount on their service, in exchange for agreeing to certain assumptions about their use.

This is done because most home users could never afford internet, if they had to pay for full price.

For example, in this area, a dedicated 20x20mb connection to the internet costs about $500USD per month (Metro Ethernet). You can do almost anything you want with this connection, since your paying for the full cost. Run servers, re-sell it to others at markup, host hundreds of websites on it, anything that's legal to do in the US, you can do with this connection.

However, most people can't afford $500/month at their house, and most people would like to have faster download speeds than 20mb. These folks might instead buy a Comcast residential plan that offers 50mb down, 10mb up, for roughly $80 (which is what that plan costs here).

$80/month is a lot cheaper than $500/month. The reason it's cheaper is because you agree to use it very lightly (no servers, no commercial use, no re-selling, keep total bandwidth use under 250-500GB, ect).

What some people try to do, is 'cheat' that system. They try to buy a 'home' connection, and run their business-level services on it. ISP's crack down on that, because it's not fair to the others whose service that person is disrupting.

However, some home users have legitimate home uses that appear to be cheats in the system. Running a Minecraft server for your friends is a 'valid' home use, but it sometimes conflicts with an ISP's rule (which might make an assumption that all servers are 'business class only' uses).

- - -

Sometimes it gets trickier -- where there's competition, anyone can buy high speed internet. (Urbanized Cities are usually ok here, lots of people sell Fiber lines / Metro Ethernet / Microwave / ect).

But at your house, there's usually zero competition by law. A provider like Comcast might be the only option you have for high speed internet (perhaps they bought exclusive franchise rights to your city, or perhaps your state or local level government has created a law preventing new providers from competing in your area (this isn't just theoretical, both of those things commonly happen in the USA)

At this point, your usually stuck. The provider was given monopoly status, but isn't being controlled by the regulations needed to ensure it doesn't abuse it's monopoly status. What can you do, besides raise a lot of complaints about that monopoly provider's rules.

- - -

TL/DR : Home users never pay for most of the speeds they get. Therefore, those speeds have to be shared among lots of people. ISP's use rules to make sure everyone shares nicely. By default, those rules are overly harsh. Good ISP's properly loosen the restrictions to allow obviously-good home uses.


Since you are defending this kind of practices, I must ask you: Can you name a single other service or product in the world that include such restrictions, and "up to X" quantity?

If I only got 50% of the actually contracted time of an rented apartment (say they wrote "up to 1 month"), I would sue. If the fine print said apartment had restrictions such as only 10 enter/exits, no commercial activities inside it like programming, no more than 2 visiting friends per month, and only allowed using the apartment for 12hrs per day, I would sue.

Why do we still allow this for Internet connectivity when we wouldn't for any other kind of utility service?


Your analogy doesn't hold up very well. There are rentals that are restricted much more than your average apartment, they are called hotel rooms.

There are different options available, because there is demand for it.

The same applies to ISP service. In general residential service is over subscribed. This allows the company to discount the service in return for restrictions on how it can be used.

There are also dedicated bandwidth options, which are much more expensive. But you can use it pretty much however you want.


All you can eat buffets don't let you fill up takeaway boxes.


Why would you sue? You signed the lease.

Most rentals have some agreement for the tenants , terms that forbid business use , redecorating or changing furniture are fairly standard. Also in houses with multiple tenants you have to agree to share communal facilities.


Technically, commercial activities in a rented apartment ARE generally restricted, either by zoning ordinances or lease terms.

Residentially zoned areas generally do not allow 'business' to be conducted out of a home. Those ordinances are worded differently everywhere, so sometimes 'coding', where you don't have lots of foot traffic or visitors, is 'ok', and other times it's not allowed anyway.

Just because it's unenforceable doesn't mean it's not against the law...


"Can you name a single other service or product in the world that include such restrictions, and "up to X" quantity?"

Sure. Semitrucks pay greater highway tolls (and are subject to greater usage scruitiny e.g. weighing stations) than light vehicle traffic.


Power companies do the same thing.


To be clear, I'm not defending most of it. I'm only defending 'ISP's can charge less to home users in exchange for them agreeing not to do specific things'.

I'm not defending the anti-competitive nature of laws in the USA. I'm not defending overzealous use of 'home/business' seperation. And I'm not defending overselling backhaul

- - -

In your example, you use an rented apartment. This is a perfect example, a rented apartment is like the 20x20 MetroE line I described above, you can do whatever you want, you paid for the whole thing.

A timeshare is what your looking for -- a timeshare also a rented apartment (or house, ect), but you dont get all the time, you only get a piece of it (say 'up to 1 month per year'). You get a significantly lower rate (in theory) on a timeshare, because you only get a part of a time.

Timeshares are cheaper than a full apartment lease. You got the cheaper rate because you agreed to the restrictions.

- - -

Even ownership doesn't absolve you of these restrictions. For example, if you buy a condominium, you usually agree to the condo boards rules (many of which include things like "no guests for more than 7 days" or "no commercial / industry / business / trade activity") http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2002-12-08/business/02120...

- - -

If you want me to name 'other services or products that include these restrictions', I can name a bunch :

- Rental Cars (mileage restriction, modification restriction)

- Leased Cars (mileage restriction, modification restriction)

- Hotel Rooms (limits on number of people present, not allowed to use it for commercial activities, ect)

- Electricity (limit to how much you can use at residential rates, if you exceed this, your price usually jumps.)

- Commercial Libraries, e.g. Universities (time limits on checked out books, if you exceed them, you pay late fees. Not allowed to re-lend-out books you've borrowed from the library. Not allowed to make copies of books you've borrowed from the library. Ect.)

- - -

EDIT : Full disclosure, I'm trying to start an new Internet Service Provider that isn't evil, from scratch, using our own network. (Not re-selling DSL / Cable). It's really really difficult.

I'm as pro-user pro-net-neutrality pro-open-internet anti-censorship pro-EFF as they come. But from a mathematical standpoint, the numbers don't work out. There's no way to cover expenses selling dedicated 50x50mbps uncapped, completely unrestricted internet connections for $30-60/month (unless your Google, and can subsidize the whole thing).

Normal home users are fine. People who just want burst fast speeds, but push some number less than 300-600GB total each month, no problem. I don't care if your running some webcams / Minecraft servers / web servers / SSH / VPN / programming for your business / accepting orders / selling ETSY stuff / ect.

But "power users" who want to host small data centers on their $30/month residential plan, or are seeding terrabytes of Torrent data each month, or are trying to resell that connection -- it can't happen today. Your making your friends and neighbors pay more for your crazy high usage. You need to be on a business plan, and pay for dedicated internet.

Remember, 600GB is a huge amount of bandwidth for a home user. That's enough to stream 25 days straight of tv-quality video (or 214 hours of HD Netflix)

I have no problem with heavy bandwidth users. But I do have a problem with heavy bandwidth users who insist they pay only the bare minimum rates because of their flawed interpretation of 'network neutrality'.


600GB is not huge. It it tiny. That is half my steam library. A quarter of my backblaze backup. A crash event and I will have to wait half an year to recover my stuff.

I see your math problem. And it has some solutions:

1. Nightly speeds - this was used in my country by the ISP-s when all caps on speed were removed after 1am to 6am with QoS on 80/443 2. Non guaranteed top speeds - you allow people to go up to some speed if your network is underutilized. 3. Metered - I think that is the best approach if the pricing is right - a person cost me 20$/month just to be connected to my network (fixed costs). You ask him for 30. A terabyte moving in/out of my network costs me 2$ - you ask him for 3$. If you have 1 TB - it is 33$/month, if you want to seed a lot - be my guest. You get your margins on the traffic. And you are transparent to your customers. (yeah I know decision fatigue, but it could be solved with prepaying and just allowing access to payment sites when the prepayed traffic is over).


600GB is huge.

That's half your steam library. As in, you could re-download literally 50% of every Steam game you've ever purchased in your entire life.

It's also not a hard cap. It's just a warning light. If you go over 600GB, police do not show up at your house and cut off your internet service. It's simply an goodwill indicator. If your routinely jumping over 600GB use, you ought to be paying for a higher tier plan, like a 'power user home plan'. (If you restore your entire backblaze and steam library every single month -- something is wrong)

But otherwise, I agree with you on many of these points.

- Nightly Speeds : If the lines aren't saturated, your free to use as much as you please. (ISP's have to pay for that connection 24/7, so if it's not in heavy use, your free to run wild. Won't bother me any). This is done already.

- Non-guaranteed top speeds : This is also already done. Plans are advertised with separate dedicated and bursting speeds. Just because Comcast is deceptive on advertising, doesn't mean all ISP's are.

- Metered : I personally am fine with metered billing, if the price is right. However, literally no regular person is ok with this. Unless your super technical, you won't know how much bandwidth your using, and won't sign on for this plan. (especially now that Verizon / Sprint / AT&T charge $15 per gigabyte, people are conditioned to flinch whenever they hear anything remotely similar to 'metered billing').


In each of your example, people still get the amount they buy. If you go and buy a timeshare for "up to 1 month per year", and was only allowed 15 days, you still be angry. the 1 month is in the contract, not 15 days.

Same goes for hotels. If I got kicked out of my hotel in the middle of the night because they overbooked, I would again be angry. Its my room for that night, not "up to 1 night".

As for rentaled/leased cars, as other has said in above, those don't normally comes with restrictions. Those that do, have such restrictions clearly advertised, and do not use words like unlimited mileage. They also don't restrict number of passengers or where you are allowed to drive.


Then Google just has to remove the "Up to 1GB upload & download - no data caps" part of their advertising [1]. And just put a cap on the upload they find acceptable.

[1] https://fiber.google.com/cities/kansascity/plans/


600GB is a pretty good number, but I'm amused by that example. "It's almost enough to leave a single TV tuned to a standard-definition channel and do nothing else."


Would it be better to describe it as "150 different Station Wagons filled with tapes"? :)


Not when you can fit significantly more on a single LTO tape.


    But "power users" who want to host small data centers on their $30/month residential plan, or are seeding terrabytes of Torrent data each month, or are trying to resell that connection -- it can't happen today._
Thanks for your full disclosure; good to hear from the horse's mouth, so to say.

But I still don't get it. If you are going to provide X amount of bandwidth to your users then you should factor that they will use that bandwidth! How they use the bandwidth should be entirely up to them. If it doesn't work out for you then, stop providing that service at that price point. (That is, if you do actually care about net neturality).


Sounds like false advertising to me...


I'm not sure what would be preferable. They could sell you metered bandwidth; but everyone always complains about metered bandwidth, and no one wants to accidentally have their 14 year old nephew who comes to visit for a week blow out your caps and cost you tons of money because they left Bittorrent seeding a bunch of popular movies.

They could just sell you lower bitrates. But then everyone would suffer, as they wouldn't get the short bursts of quick bandwidth they need to browse the web or download files.

Or they could do what they're doing, which is sell under separate residential and business plans. The residential plans are sold under the assumption that you'll be using them for ordinary personal use by you and your family, and that you're not going to build a data center in your basement and start reselling bandwidth to people colocating servers in your basement.

"Business" and "residential" have fairly well established meanings. There are already plenty of zoning laws that make business vs. residential, or residential vs. commercial vs. industrial distinctions. Selling a residential plan that includes in its terms of service "you may not use this for commercial purposes" is not unreasonable.

Now, I do object to residential plans that unilaterally block ports without recourse, or disallow any running of "servers", as there are lots of valid reasons why someone would run a server for personal, as opposed to commercial, purposes. But I can't find a good way to allow everyone to share a larger pool of bandwidth at a lower price for home use, without allowing some people to take advantage of it for profit, without making the business/residential distinction.

And sure, there will always be grey areas. What if you work remotely? What about personal uses that are abusive? These are things that need to be dealt with on a case by case basis, or spelled out clearly in the ToS. You can't really include the entire complexity of the ToS in a single ad, so I'm not sure you can claim false advertising just because there are a few terms in the ToS which weren't unambiguously stated in any "advertising" about the service.


Really the only difference between "residential" and "commercial" plans should be service guarantees. I do not expect Comcast's residential cable service to have any particular guarantee of service; if I had a commercial contract, I would certainly demand some sort of guarantee about available bandwidth and uptime. That is what we have now, more or less.

To put it another way, suppose nobody gets any service guarantee with their residential connection. Why should it be acceptable to say, "How dare you maximize your use of this, when it reduces availability for everyone else?!?" Nobody gets a guarantee of service at all.

Now, if we do get guarantees about our minimum service level, then there is an easy solution, which is to just reduce throughput for "heavy users" to the point where everyone else is getting their minimum guaranteed service. That would not be so bad at all: minimum service guarantees rather than maximum service limits. Of course, once you start making guarantees like that, people start expecting you to follow through and your ability to grossly oversell your network's capacity is constrained (what a tragedy).


So, let's think back to the analog, circuit-switched telephone network. If you have a telephone line, you generally expect to be able to make a call at any time. But for anyone to be able to make a call at any time across the country, you would need to have one cross-country line for each person on the side with lower number of people (assuming, of course, that you divide the country in half and need to run cross country lines between the two halve; bear with me, this is a bit of a simplified example).

Of course, if you built one line for each person, then the vast majority of them would go unused. It would be completely ridiculous to overbuild like this; everyone would be paying for a ton of capacity that's unused. So how about if they build it to comfortably cover 10% more capacity than they've ever had used in the past. This allows for enough headroom for spikes, and when usage starts crossing that line they know that they need to start building out more capacity.

But of course, then some disaster strikes, and everyone tries to call their loved ones at once to check in on them. Usage surges to more than 10% higher than their previous high, and they run out of lines. Oops, now they've violated their "minimum service level". So, should they only have sold you long-distance service when they knew that there was less than one line per endpoint? Well, sure, it would have been ridiculously expensive and you wouldn't have bought it to have your own dedicated line the whole way across the country.

Now, the considerations in a packet switched network aren't all that much different. You can be more efficient about sharing the same resources because you can even share a single line, with several people sending packets at different times. But if you want to provide some kind of guaranteed minimum service, you need to take whatever you most limited path is, and divide up its cost and bandwidth between all customers who could possibly use it simultaneously. And I guarantee you, that will add up to paying a fortune for a pittance of bandwidth.

    Why should it be acceptable to say, "How dare you 
    maximize your use of this, when it reduces availability 
    for everyone else?!?" Nobody gets a guarantee of 
    service at all.
Because if they do that, people will start leaving that service, saying "it's slow and glitchy, this other service gets much better ratings on SpeedTest.net and all of my friends on this other service say it's more reliable for them", when the reason for that is "this other service" actually has an enforces a ToS against abusive use of the network.

Does anybody get a "guarantee of service" to the public roads? Then why should anyone complain if someone else decides to run a private parade on those public roads, blocking everyone else? Or should we all get a "guarantee of service", and then deny anyone the right to have a parade ever?

Sometimes, you need to share resources without precise, hard and fast constraints, but instead based on social conventions, definitions of completely egregious behavior, and consequences for that completely egregious behavior.


Well metered connection - the problem is the pricing. 10USD per month for contentedness + $1 per terabyte seems like a good deal. And even if my nephew decided to download all the porn of the internet he will run out of space before I run out of money.


In the same way that Olive Garden falsely advertises Unlimited Soup Salad and Bread Sticks when they prevent you from stocking your food truck with their "unlimited" items.


That's brilliant I will have to reuse this line.


How does no one understand that what he's saying is that the product regular ISPs market is 'internet w/ fine print (i.e. no servers, etc)', versus uncapped, open 20x20mb line, without fine print?

The point is exactly that everything advertised by Comcast comes with an asterisk and fine print which you must agree to, to use their service (making it not false advertising).


Comcast advertising doesn't doesn't include Comcast contracts.


But they include a little line that says 'terms and conditions may apply', or similar.


Let's just imagine for a moment what "truthful advertising" would look like. Probably something like "1 Mbps for $50/month"; when ISPs are already offering 15 Mbps for $50 today there's no way to get there from here.


The fact that ISPs have oversold their services and painted themselves into a corner with misleading, if not downright false advertising is entirely their problem. Get a law passed and let them whine about it and then deal with it.


So, what would you prefer? Would you prefer fixed lower bandwidths; everyone gets exactly 1 Mbps all the time, for the same price you're paying now for 50 Mbps? Then you're going to have a ton of bandwidth going unused all the time, while everything will load slower.

Or would you prefer the famously unpopular bandwidth caps and overage charges?

Saying "unlimited bandwidth" but selling it as a residential (ie, non-commercial) plan seems like a fairly reasonable solution to the problem. It gives actual non-commercial residential customers what they want, the ability to have spikes of high bitrate transfers without having to worry about overage charges or being throttled, while actually allowing that pool of bandwidth to be shared reasonably fairly.

The problem is if you divide shared resources like upstream bandwidth (or in the case of hosting, resource like disk or RAM) in precise amounts such that you could support 100% of the capacity you sold at any time, you would be wasting the vast majority of your resources. Most customers can't predict in advance exactly how much they need, and are quite averse to any kind of overage charges.

Now, for some (mostly business) customers and workloads, precise metering works well, and for some completely dedicated bandwidth works well. But for the average residential customer, who has extremely spiky bandwidth demands and is quite averse to overage charges, neither of those work well.


I would prefer minimum service guarantees rather than maximum usage allowances. If I want to maximize my use of my connection, the only thing my ISP should do is reduce my throughput when someone else is trying to check their email, so that I do not get in their way. Other than that Internet connections should be a free-for-all.

The real problem here is that ISPs are so grossly overselling their networks' capacities that they cannot provide any guarantee beyond dialup speeds unless people take turns. Rather than admit this, they try to assign blame to people who foolishly think that "Up to 20Mbps!!!" means "up to 20Mbps" when in fact the ISPs want it to mean "up to 20Mbps in occasional short bursts, and only for the things we think you should be doing."

I am not asking for commercial-grade service. I am asking that my neighbors be able to stream videos while I am seeding Debian torrents. Nobody expects some kind of Internet-connection-utopia, but it is not wrong or unreasonable to expect to be allowed to use my Internet connection as I wish, particularly when I am paying more and receiving less than my overseas friends.


Following the thread here, I think what you are asking for is unreasonable given the current infrastructure or massively unpopular.

In the current environment what you are asking for is completely possible. Comcast will give you your speeds, but if they see you are seeding your debian torrents for too long, they will throttle your connection. Now they could advertise this, but we know how unpopular connection throttling is. However in a way, a connection throttle is your minimum service guarantee - your speed will never go below the throttle.

Now I don't know anything about laying internet pipe, but lets say we gave everyone minimum service guarantees, how much do you think that would cost, and how much would you be willing to pay for a given speed? It may be completely possible that Comcast is fine with your seeding as long as you limit your speed to percentage of that number.

This doesn't really refute your point, but given these two constraints its easy to see why ISPs may choose to go the "up to XMbps" route rather than the "minimum allowed route." Would it really change anything for you if you found out that your minimum service guarantee was 768kbps at your current price point?


"Now I don't know anything about laying internet pipe, but lets say we gave everyone minimum service guarantees, how much do you think that would cost, and how much would you be willing to pay for a given speed? It may be completely possible that Comcast is fine with your seeding as long as you limit your speed to percentage of that number."

I think the cost of providing such a guarantee depends on the guarantee, and therein lies the problem. Right now, I suspect that a typical cable modem connection would only be able to guarantee dialup speeds, due to how massively oversold the bandwidth is. Of course, most people do not seed torrents or run web servers or whatever else on their home connection, and so we never see service so degraded.

"Would it really change anything for you if you found out that your minimum service guarantee was 768kbps at your current price point?"

Sure: I would have a much higher opinion of my ISP. Frankly, I would have a higher opinion if service classes were based on such minimum service levels rather than maximum levels: I would much rather pay for at least 768kbps than at most 20Mbps, particularly if "at least 768kbps" meant "at least 768kbps, and higher throughput when available."


If you want minimum service guarantees, buy a dedicated line. They generally run somewhere around $2500 a month for symmetric 50 Mbps.

If you don't want to pay that much, but you still do want the option of bursting to 50 Mbps (or more), shared bandwidth, like you get from your average residential plan, is your best bet. And I don't know about your experience, but more often than not, I do get the advertised speeds, at least when I'm connecting to servers that can support that sort of bandwidth.

I mean, I agree with you in theory, it would be great to be able to get dedicated symmetric 100 Mbps for $80 a month; but it's just not economically feasible.

And I agree that ISPs discriminating based on type of traffic (torrent vs VOIP vs HTTP, etc) is not good, but this whole thread is about Google changing from "you can't host servers" to "you can host servers but only for non-commercial purposes", which is, I think, a huge improvement and fairly reasonable given that commercial use tends to be very different than residential use and it doesn't make sense to treat them the same way.


It's not that I want a guarantee of 50Mbps. What I really want is for everyone to have a guarantee of, say, 768kbps, so that when I am sitting here seeding Debian torrents I do not have to worry that the old lady living next door will not be able to video chat with her grandchildren. I also find it somewhat difficult to accept the idea that no such guarantee will be made, yet I will still be punished if I reduce the quality of service for my neighbors -- either there is a guarantee, in which case I should be throttled in a way that ensures everyone enjoys at least that service level, or there is no guarantee in which case consuming lots of bandwidth is simply rude (but not something that should be punished).

Frankly, I think this solution is not so bad: I get lower priority as I consume more bandwidth, until I am getting only the minimum throughput for my service class. Thus people can still get their burst speeds, and I can still seed torrents or run a web server or whatever else.

My real point is that I do not see why people should be punished for using their connection continuously. Comcast did not offer me "burst service," they offered me "always on" service with "speeds up to X." I feel little sympathy for an ISP that massively oversold service and then claimed that it is abusive for customers to actually use what they are paying for.


It's actually pretty difficult, technically, to provide you with a minimum guaranteed amount of bandwidth, without simultaneously limiting everyone else.

The problem is that there are many layers in the networking stack which interact in complicated ways. TCP congestion control algorithms and TCP slow start, which happen at the endpoints. Buffering, which happens at pretty much every intermediate hop in the path. And traffic shaping, which can pretty much only drop packets to limit bandwidth used.

If I'm supposed to guarantee you 768kbps, that means that I need to drop any packets from everyone else that exceeds the capacity minus 768kbps. But if I do this for everybody, I'm back to the case where I'm giving everyone a dedicated 768kbps, and they aren't able to share excess bandwidth at all.

Now, you could imagine a scheme in which I don't limit other people's bandwidth until you actually start using some. But then if it's congested when you start your transfer, you won't actually be able to send data at your full 768kbps at first, so TCP congestion control will kick in and limit you to less than that. So when traffic shaping looks at your stream, it sees something less than being used. Should it then limit everyone else such that it guarantees you your full 768kbps? If it does that every time someone uses their connection, then services that trickle just a small amount of data will essentially guarantee that everyone is always being guaranteed their 768kbps by limiting everyone else, and you're back to the "OK, now everyone has a dedicated 768kbps connection that won't go faster".

Or should it limit everyone else based on the bandwidth that you are currently using? Say, when it notices that you are sending 10 kbps, it throttles everyone else down to allow you 15 kbps; then when you increase to sending 15 kbps, it throttles everyone else down to allow you to send 20 kbps, and so on, until you hit your guaranteed bandwidth. Based on the delays it takes for TCP congestion control to ramp up the speed it tries to send while traffic shaping ramps up the amount it's limiting everyone else to give you the bandwidth you need, and the latencies involved (generally tens to low hundreds of milliseconds round trips) it could be a few seconds before you are actually able to get up to your guaranteed bandwidth.

But those first few seconds are generally the most crucial to be delivered quickly. Most people are browsing the web, where there are lots of short page loads. You want those to be able to kick in quickly and then be done with.

Remember, this is an industry where we've only recently come to understand the effects of buffer bloat on performance. Effective quality of service guarantees, other than giving everyone X guaranteed bandwidth by limiting everyone else to the total minus X bandwidth (which, when the network approaches capacity, becomes not much different than giving everyone an X bandwidth dedicated line), is a hard problem.

  My real point is that I do not see why people should be 
  punished for using their connection continuously. Comcast 
  did not offer me "burst service," they offered me "always 
  on" service with "speeds up to X." I feel little sympathy 
  for an ISP that massively oversold service and then claimed 
  that it is abusive for customers to actually use what they 
  are paying for.
Yes. It's always on service (as in, you can be connected and have the service available 100% of the time) and have speeds up to X available. That's what they promised, and that's what they deliver. They also sold this as a "Residential" service. They have other services for commercial and dedicated lines, that they will sell you for greater utilization.

You are not paying for continuous use of X, you are paying for an always available line that gives you speed up to X, for personal residential use.

Restrictions on not using the network abusively or not running commercial services on a home network are not some creepy abusive plot, they are really the best that the networks can do to provide you with affordable, high-speed broadband.

Do I wish that there were more competition? Sure. Do I wish that I got higher speeds for cheaper? Sure. Do I wish that they would be network neutral and not block ports running on my network? Absolutely. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with selling a residential plan that is for residential purposes, and enforcing that, separately from their commercial plan, and separately from their dedicated plan. It's not that difficult; if you want to use it for commercial purposes, use their commercial plan. If you want guaranteed bandwidth, buy a dedicated line.

And remember, the ISPs have not "massively oversold" their services. If you look at the FCC's report (measured in 2011): http://web.archive.org/web/20130511164730/http://transition.... , you'll see several ISPs that actually exceed their advertised bandwidths even during peak hours. Now, some of them are clearly not doing so well by that metric; Century Link is not even hitting 80% off peak, and barely 50% on peak. I would say you have a good case for false advertising there. But if you notice, Comcast and Verizon FiOS manage to exceed their advertised bandwidth, on average, even on peak. This matches pretty well with my experience over the last 5 years or so. I've had both DSL and Cable. DSL routinely underperformed what was sold, which was already paltry. But cable has generally exceeded what was sold, when connecting to servers that could actually handle the load.

So, I'm not sure I'd call that "massively overselling", other than maybe Century Link (and the other DSL providers don't hold up too well either).

Think of it like a buffet. For efficiency and simplicity, it's an all-you-can eat plan; unlike food, people aren't very good at knowing how much they are going to use and so charging based on usage is much more unpopular, making buffet style plans much more populat. So they do "all you can eat". And the rules are, it's all you can eat, and in one sitting; you can't take a bunch with you and then sell it to someone else, nor can you horde food for takeout because "you're going to eat it later". Would you start complaining and railing that the all-you-can eat buffet massively overselling? No. That's all that they're doing with the internet plan; it's just that there are less social conventions and it's easier to accidentally (or deliberately) massively overuse your fair share of bandwidth than it is to massively abuse a buffet, since it all happens automatically.


I would prefer truthful advertisement. If they must cut down on minimum transfer rates, then that’s what the advertisement should say.

I have a general rule: Buy 250KB/s, and you get 100% of the bought speed.

Buy 1MB/s, and get 95% of the bought speed.

Buy 10MB/s, and get 80% of the bought speed.

Buy 100MB/s, and get in average around 50% of the bought speed. 25 at prime time, and 90 around 4am.

In the end, more expensive connection give you more, but each level give less proportionally bandwidth than advertised. This should be illegal. If they want to sell me 25MB/s, but at strange hours up to 100MB/s, than the advertisement should say so, plain and simple.

If you went to the gas station and only got 50% from paying for a full tank, you, me and everyone would be angry. It wouldn't matter if the gas station was "low" on gas, or if it meant that the gas station might end up with no gas left for the next customer.


Bandwidth is not like gas. It's not something that you buy, and consume it, and then go out and buy more.

Instead, there's an infrastructure that need to be built. That infrastructure has a certain capacity; at any given time, only so many bits per second can be flowing over it.

Now, most people don't use all of their capacity at a continuous, constant rate. Rather, their usage is quite bursty. You use a lot of bandwidth for a short amount of time when loading a video, and then none while you're watching it. Or you use lots of small bursts while surfing the web.

If they sold 100 Mbps (no one sells 100 MB/s) and guaranteed that to you, it would be astronomically expensive. But selling you service that gets 100 Mbps in bursts if people have average personal-use utilization patterns is perfectly possible.

Now, how exactly should they advertise that? That's a tough question. If they were going to advertise the minimum guaranteed bandwidth, it would be laughably low (and of course, they could never really guarantee any minimum, since how much bandwidth you get for a given transfer depends not only on your connection, but the backbones in between and server's connection; there is no way to guarantee any particular amount of bandwidth in any meaningful way). And you would almost always get more than that, so that would be a fairly meaningless number.

Perhaps they could advertise an aggregate average bandwidth? That would be pretty hard to define and test (what sample period are you measuring over? How do you know when a transfer has stalled due to congestion somewhere vs being finished?), and wouldn't really give you much meaningful. Are you really going to go out an canvas your neighbors to determine if your neigbhorhood really is getting the promised average aggregate bandwidth?

The only really meaningful thing they can give you is what the actual maximimum bandwidth they will allow over your connection. That is a hard and fast number, and can be tested fairly easily. Of course, that doesn't say much about your bandwidth accessing any particular site, but there's nothing you can really do about that without control of the entire network.

Now, actually in practice, it appears that when I buy a certain level from Comcast, they don't actually use that as a hard maximum. I've seen bursts that were higher than the advertised bandwidth; and of course, I've seen transfers that were lower.

I know that everyone likes to criticize ISPs, and there is definitely some behavior that I find odious (blocking particular protocols, attempts to subvert net-neutrality). But over-selling bandwidth is not one of them. I can't really imagine a system that would work better than over-selling bandwidth.


I don't have any problem with an ISP saying "up to #Mbps" as that's what they allow each customer to get (though this is 2013 and I'm sure with the amount of metrics that CPE can gather, we could measure average thruput and advertise that too).

What I have a huge issue with is selling the services as unlimited and then smacking people down when they walk over some invisible line, or worse selling an "up to #Mbps" line when they know damn well based on basic math that nobody's ever going to get anywhere near that speed in that area.

It's absolutely ripe for abuse. You, as an ISP, can legally sell someone a 100 meg line you know in advance won't reach that speed.


If they has such hard time to measure limits, they can always use first hop router as test base.

But lets take the look from the buyer. You see a 8MB line for $80 amount, and 10MB line for say for $100. Knowing what you pay for is the minimum requirement for informed purchase, or you end up with a lemon market.

ISP are lemon markets, and you get poor quality for more expensive price. No amount of "The infrastructure has a certain capacity" argument is going to change that.


How about this: for $50/mo you get a guarantee of at least 1Mbps of continuous throughput (or at least a best effort at that), with no restriction on your usage beyond that? Why does it need to be black or white? Why not just dynamically adjust the throughput for "heavy users" so that nobody sees speeds below some level regardless of how others are utilizing the network?

Oh, wait, these connections are so grossly oversold that the only such guarantee that could be made would be on the order of dialup speeds. Why should we feel pity for ISPs that create such a situation, when they are charging us more and providing us with less than what people pay and enjoy in other countries?


For what it's worth, this is exactly how we're planning to handle shared connections.

Our typical "small office" connection is advertised as "60x60 bursting on top of a dedicated T1 connection". Which comes out to most people getting around 50x50 about 85% of the time, but always having a dedicated 1.5mbps waiting for you (so it can never drop below that speed, even if every subscriber maxed out their line at the same time).

We also do 'dynamically adjust the throughput for heavy users'. The problem is the heavy users are typically us, the folks on Hacker News who complain when their torrent seeds get slowed down. These are the users who complain about internet being 'oversold' when in reality, they alone account for 80% of their entire neighborhoods backhaul costs.

- - -

I encourage you, if you feel ISP's connections are so oversold, please try to start your own ISP. I'd love to offer everyone awesome dedicated connections, and I'll be your best friend if you can show me a way to do things cheaper :)

But I suspect you'll find out that it's not exactly the easiest business in the world to run, especially if your bootstrapping it.


You are bringing transparency to your pricing. That is huge. What HN get annoyed about is not torrents slowing down. But torrents being slowed down for arbitrary reasons.

We know that a person's email and voice calls are more important than getting a Debian distro 4 seconds earlier. QoS shaping does not violate network neutrality the way I understand it.


That would be fine except for path dependence. You're talking about taking essentially the same service but making it sound much worse than it currently sounds.


I had always assumed the advertised speeds were likely (according to an unregulated definition), but not guaranteed. Even if the ISP gave me an SLA (maybe they did?), they couldn't make promises regarding the performance of any external network anyway.

Maybe they should be required to report a sharing ratio in addition to bandwidth and latency within the ISP's own network. Any thoughts on how that would look, or what formula might make sense?


Imagine if cars were sold this way:

"Unlimited high-speed Italian sports-car, leases starting at only $250/mo! <ultra-fine-print>By the way, we're also giving keys to your neighbors, and if you drive the car too often we're going to deactivate your copy of the keys</ultra-fine-print>"


Of course comparing apples to oranges leads to absurdities; not all things have the same attributes as all other things.


How about this: if I rent a car for one day, and the rental describes itself as "unlimited mileage", I expect to be able to use it for 24 hours straight.

If I get fined for using it for the full 24 hours because that puts wear and tear on the car that the car rental business did not anticipate, then I am going to accuse them of false advertising. I don't care if everybody doing that would ruin their business; if they don't want me to use as many miles as I please during the rental period, then they shouldn't call it "unlimited". "We only offered it to you at that rate because we counted on you not actually using it that much" doesn't fly with me.

Seriously, Hertz offers unlimited miles on most of their rentals. Do you think they would get pissed if I put 1500 miles on one of their cars next Saturday? No, I doubt it, even though if everybody did that their car would be on it's last legs in mere months. That is exactly the sort of thing that ISPs get bitchy over though.

I don't think this is apples and oranges in the slightest.


They work on the basis the almost nobody will rent a car and drive it for 24 hours straight unless you are planning to use it for a le-mans style event. They will have clauses in the rental agreement that prevent you from using it to enter a le-mans style event.


I'm sure people semi-rarely drive them 24 hours straight. There are certainly situations where people do that outside of motoring events, driving several states away on a road trip for instance (I have driven across the country several times, and if I had been doing it with a rental then I would have been inclined to maximize my hours-per-day to keep rental costs down). It would no doubt be rare, but I can only imagine that they don't get bent out of shape when it inevitably happens.

Basically, I hypothesis that rental car advertisement is far more honest than ISP advertisement. Furthermore, I assert that if rental car companies tried to pull the shenanigans that ISPs pull, they would be smacked down. An "unlimited miles" contract may have a "keep it legal" clause, which is a reasonable clause that anybody would expect, but a "'unlimited' means you can drive it during any time of the day, but keep it under 500 miles" tinyprinted clause would be considered deceptive.


It's trivially easy to run it straight for a single 24 solid hours (apart from gas and bathroom stops). Just take a cross-country road trip with 3-4 drivers who can rotate. Minneapolis, MN to Page, AZ for spring break as an example.


Technically you have to tell the car rental company if somebody else is going to be driving. What then happens depends on the company, though at least several rental companies will allow your spouse to also drive the car for no extra fee. Two people handing off every few hours can fairly easily do 24 hours straight safely (provided both are semi-decent at napping in the car). With three people or more, as you said, it becomes trivial.

Even in cases where the rental company charges you for additional drivers, I don't think that charge ever goes over a handful of dollars; not really enough to offset a 24-hour straight run.

From what I can tell, rental companies dislike multiple drivers because multiple drivers increases the risk of incident (I presume because multiple drivers correlates with 24-hour runs).


That's a much better analogy, yes.


Your post is based on a lot of actual and epistemological assumptions that are either incorrect, or undefended. For example:

> This is done because most home users could never afford internet, if they had to pay for full price.

There is an epistemological problem here about what "full price" means, which is subjective. I would argue that "full price" is simply "whatever AT&T/Comcast charges you". You seem to want there to be some "other" type of price that is the "real price".

Perhaps you are saying that ISPs make more money from business customers than from residential customers. Perhaps this is true, but the fact that it is convenient for the business model of an ISP to charge some customers more does not mean that other customers are not paying "full price".

Perhaps you are saying that residential customers are being provided connections that are below cost. But in an efficient market, an ISP could of course decide not to serve residential customers. Seeing as how ISPs continue to serve residential customers, it must be because residential customers are in fact paying enough money to cover the costs of the services they receive (e.g. "full price").

> The reason it's cheaper is because you agree to use it very lightly

You seem to be suggesting that the primary factor in network costs is use, but all the sources I read (for example this one)[1] suggest that connecting the last mile is expensive, and routing an arbitrary volume of packets over that pre-installed copper is extremely cheap.

If this is true, then it is the residential market that is subsidizing the high-margin business connections, because the sprawling (profitable, predictable) residential networks are the ones that are shortening the last-mile distance to (sparser) business links.

> What some people try to do, is 'cheat' that system.

There is an epistemological assumption in here that "the system" is fair or impartial or acknowledged in general by society or based on objective costs, or something.

> Home users never pay for most of the speeds they get.

I've covered this earlier, but just as an additional argument, I did a cost comparison, and consumer vs business class in my area for my ISP is merely double. Those packages all include website hosting, Exchange, Sharepoint, static IPs, 24x7 support, etc. Just as a point of comparison, market rates for 2GB of Sharepoint hosting are $25/month, hosted Exchange is $20/month, 24x7 support is who knows, etc... So fair to say, very little of the additional revenue could possibly be going to network costs.

[1] http://www.muninetworks.org/content/solving-middle-mile-avai...


We seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot -- perhaps I've been unclear :

> There is an epistemological problem here about what "full price" means, which is subjective... You seem to want there to be some "other" type of price that is the "real price".

I think I made this pretty clear, but I'll re-state it to try to clarify what I mean : "Real price" is not an 'epistemological problem', it's simply the cost of dedicated internet service. That might come from AT&T or Comcast, but it might also come from US Signal, or Level 3, or Cogent, or Zayo, or any number of other providers.

When you pay for a typical home or 'small business' connection, you are not buying dedicated internet. You are buying shared internet. You've bought a small fraction of a connection. That's why, under times of heavy load, the connection slows down.

"Real price" is the cost of a connection that "never" slows down, because it is literally dedicated to you and only you.

For example, when you buy a connection from Comcast / Time Warner / Cox / Charter, they might advertise it as "up to 50mbps". Your not buying a solid 50mbps, your buying a tiny portion of that 50mbps line (a portion you share with your neighbors).

The "real price" of a 50mbps connection is much higher, because it's cost can't be spread out / shared among lots of people (since that connection is dedicated to you alone). I'm not inventing this price, it's a figure you get from an upstream provider in your area.

> Perhaps you are saying that ISPs make more money from business customers than from residential customers. Perhaps this is true, but the fact that it is convenient for the business model of an ISP to charge some customers more does not mean that other customers are not paying "full price".

Your twisting my words. I said business typically pay for dedicated internet ("full price"), where as residential users pay for shared internet ("partial price", or a small portion of the full price of that service.

Lots of people will complain they paid for "50x10". But they didn't, they paid for a small shared portion of that 50x10. They paid "partial price" for partial service, but feel entitled to full service. (They bought a shared connection, but feel entitled to a full, dedicated connection).

> You seem to be suggesting that the primary factor in network costs is use, but all the sources I read (for example this one)[1] suggest that connecting the last mile is expensive, and routing an arbitrary volume of packets over that pre-installed copper is extremely cheap.

Your have a few facts correct here, but have come to the wrong conclusion.

You are correct that 'routing arbitrary packets is cheap'. However, there are lots and lots of other costs your ignoring. For instance, installing copper is not cheap. Hooking up that copper to the internet at large, is not cheap. (You have to have internet access, to sell it.) Maintaining copper is not cheap. Simply letting copper sit in the ground, without touching it in any way, is not cheap. (One quick example: Copper is not a fixed expense in the US, you typically have to pay each month for the 'right of way' to even let copper sit in the ground or in the air, untouched. Every single foot is billed. In my city, that cost is 33cents per foot, so to run a cable from two buildings two miles apart, costs $290 per month, just for the right-of-way for that cable to exist. That doesn't include the cost to install or maintain it, or connect it to the internet, or pay anyone to install it, or pay anyone to maintain the network behind it, or any other expenses -- simply for permission for that cable to exist at all runs multiple-hundred-dollars each month)

You are correct that 'last mile is expensive'. But you have it backwards -- high-margin business connections subsidize cheap residential ones. Businesses pay for those two to three mile hops, and home users get cheaper access by virtue of being 'on-the-way' to a business. This is why many businesses have fiber to their location even while most homes don't.

> There is an epistemological assumption in here that "the system" is fair or impartial or acknowledged in general by society or based on objective costs, or something.

Nope. No assumptions. Every home user signs an agreement, that clearly states what is "fair". They include terms like "no hosting a data center" or "don't use more than x00GB per month bandwidth". I'm not inventing or assuming a definition of "fair", it's spelled out in detail when you subscribe for service.

If you don't like a given ISP's definition of "fair", you buy something else with less restrictions that you feel is "fair". That usually ends up being dedicated internet service, since you can typically do (almost) anything you want with it.

Some ISP's have ridiculious definitions of what's "fair" that break traditionally expected norms. ISP's with ridiculous restrictions should totally eliminate those (e.g. ISP's should allow friends to play Minecraft on their connection).

But the simply act of having some restrictions is not, in and of itself, ridiculous. Since the product is by-nature shared, you need some level of protection against bad neighbors, or you end up with a 'tragedy of the commons' problem.

> I did a cost comparison, and consumer vs business class in my area for my ISP is merely double.

Your comparison is not even remotely fair. You did a cost comparison for "consumer shared" and "business class shared". The marginal cost between those is very little (they're both the same shared connection, business class just gets higher priority).

A real comparison would be you comparing your home ISP, with a Business Metro Ethernet line, or a Business Dedicated Fiber line. It will probably take you a little while to do a proper comparison, as at these prices, you almost always have to talk to a sales person first (pricing isn't public). In my area, a dedicated 20x20 runs $400 to $800 a month, assuming your already on-net (most businesses aren't, they pay even more).


If I can add as an aside, both yours and Drew's arguments are interesting reads. Both of you are arguing well.

To add to the data, the dedicated fiber line at our business goes for ~$700 and is 500 up 500 down (in Canada, BC).

that scales slightly better than the connections we get residentially, take from that what you will.

In my opinion, if the reality is that me and my neighbours are all sharing a single 50x10, then having an third party non regulatory agency dictate the use of a utility to me without disclosing any of the factors they use to reach that decision, feels like an unfair situation. I'm also surprised to learn that so little bandwidth is present. I wonder about that.


> "Real price" is the cost of a connection that "never" slows down, because it is literally dedicated to you and only you.

So I have come to the conclusion that in part we are talking past each other. You are saying “Consider the set of people such that they need more bandwidth than is available in the pre-existing copper/fiber cabeling to the premises. In that case they need new cable/fiber. This is expensive. The fiber that they will receive is theirs alone (since, for starters, nobody else seems to need it).” Yes, that is all true.

However you are conflating this with the alternative “Anyone who does not do this shares a line with other persons and therefore can have no reasonable expectations about their level of service.” Which is not true. It is, in fact, the responsibility of the ISP to make a reasonable effort to control oversubscription. Some ISPs do not do this, of course, but the consumer is not wrong for having the expectation.

Here in Austin, we have 8x4 DOCSIS3 to the building. That’s about 340MBit/s down. If you divide that by the ten units in this building, that’s 34Mbit of (dedicated) bandwidth to each unit. Meanwhile my advertised speed is 35Mbit. I’m never going to notice if everybody saturates their connections and I lose 3% of my bandwidth. So.

There are higher packages, and so I dunno, maybe there is this class of people that is just super annoyed that they are suddenly surfing at “only” 34Mbit during peak hours. But as a huge computer nerd I am not in that set, and I suspect the number of people who are seriously annoyed by oversubscription in Austin is a rounding error.

> However, there are lots and lots of other costs your ignoring. For instance, installing copper is not cheap.

I think we are in agreement here. Essentially I am saying that the cost difference between routing 1 packet and routing 1,000,000 packets is negligible, because the cost to route 1 packet involves installing the copper/fiber (and upkeep apparently).

What you are saying is “Well, what if you need hundreds of megabits of speed at your apartment?” And yeah, that is a problem, because in that case we need to run new cable/fiber. But this is not really a “shared line” problem. There is no service here that advertises a 300mbit shared line. It doesn’t exist.

> But you have it backwards -- high-margin business connections subsidize cheap residential ones. Businesses pay for those two to three mile hops, and home users get cheaper access by virtue of being 'on-the-way' to a business.

This seems absurd to me, to the point of being unbelievable. It may be that business class fiber is installed first, because no ordinary resident will lease their own fiber. However “installed first” and “subsidizes the cost of other subscribers” are two totally orthogonal things.

If you consider a fully-connected residential network, it spans a larger area, and has a lot more cable installed (and probably is a lot more expensive to build), than a fully-connected business network. Thus, connecting an arbitrary business to a fully-connected residential network will always be cheaper than connecting an arbitrary residence to a fully-connected business network. This doesn’t have anything to do with “first” or “second”, it has to do with the size and linear feet of cable and square mileage of coverage of one type of network when measured against the other.

> Every home user signs an agreement, that clearly states what is "fair". I'm not inventing or assuming a definition of "fair", it's spelled out in detail when you subscribe for service.

This is literally the COMPLETE relevant part of my residential-class internet connection terms of service from a major ISP:

> The Services are for your reasonable, personal non-commercial use only. You may not provide the Services to any person who is not a member or guest in your household, or to persons outside your premises, whether for a fee or otherwise. You will take reasonable precautions to prevent others from gaining unauthorized access to the Services.

Can I run an HTTP server? I have no idea. Can I use 2TB a month? No clue. There is absolutely nothing "clear" about what I can or cannot do with my internet connection, and if you think being "clear" and "fair" is standard business practice for ISPs in the United States you need a real reality check.


> “Consider the set of people such that they need more bandwidth than is available in the pre-existing copper/fiber cabeling to the premises."

Close. I'm saying 'Considering the set of people that need more bandwidth than is available regardless of the pre-existing infrastructure.

It's a subtle difference, but it matters. Your next point is a good example of why :

> Here in Austin, we have 8x4 DOCSIS3 to the building. That’s about 340MBit/s down.

Pause here, this is a faulty assumption. Yes, your buildings line is capable of 340Mbit/s down. But your line is (probably) never maxed out like that.

For a provider to offer you 340Mb dedicated to your building, they'd have to pay for a dedicated 340mb to your building. I don't know the prices in Austin, but in Urban Michigan, just getting a 200x200mb backhaul connection costs roughly about $2,000 to $2,600/month.

If there are ten units in your building, to let your building share 200x200 would mean your ISP would have to have a backhaul cost of $200 to $260 per unit, just on backhaul alone!

(That doesn't include the cost to have copper in the building, or the cost for the ISP to get that backhaul from their data center to your buildings demark, or the cost to have your traffic routed / shaped nicely, or the cost for a telephone operator to offer you support, ect)

I presume your buildings units are residential; if that's true, there's no way your paying $300 or more per unit for home internet, so your ISP likely can't even afford to provide a 200mbit line to your building. They likely have a line capable of 300+, but with service only capable of around 100mbit at the highest.

That also assumes you can even get all the units to subscribe to the ISP service. Comcast / Charter / Time Warner / ect can make that assumption because they have a monopoly. But any players smaller than them, can't make that assumption. We might only get 20-50% of the units in a building to switch, which (if we're still delivering 200mb to the building) doubles the per-unit expenses to about $400/month each.

Remember, your not just sharing the line, your also sharing the backhaul (the ISP's connection to the internet at large).

>This seems absurd to me, to the point of being unbelievable..., connecting an arbitrary business to a fully-connected residential network will always be cheaper than connecting an arbitrary residence to a fully-connected business network.

This might in theory be true if you have a government blessed monopoly. (Even then, the margins on business service are much higher and cover the lower margins on residential)

But if your ISP is any smaller than Comcast, you probably don't have this. So you won't get every house in a residential area. Which means you'll be paying for a fully-connected residential network, but only collecting revenue on 20-50% of those houses. Which means you'll be paying for lines connected to hundreds of homes which you collect zero revenue on. (Remember, each foot of that network is 33cents, regardless if it's in use, regardless of whether you've subscribed service on it).

Businesses subsidize residential use. The degree to which that happens fluctuates wildly (Comcast for instance, can also use high-margin HBO and TV / pay-per-view / other subscriptions to subsidize their residential costs. "Pure ISPs" cant do that).

> Can I run an HTTP server? I have no idea. Can I use 2TB a month? No clue.

If you don't understand the agreement you signed, call your cable company. They will very clearly tell you "no" and suggest you buy a business class service (which should spell out the extra restrictions you've removed -- or at least, Comcast Business Class does here)

> if you think being "clear" and "fair" is standard business practice for ISPs in the United States you need a real reality check.

We're arguing two different things here. Your saying "my ISP is evil, they use X, Y, Z to do evil, therefore, X, Y, and Z are evil"

I get that. I'm not defending Comcast / AT&T / other shitty ISP's. I'm fully aware that Comcast crazy oversells backhaul in many markets, or is super overzealous on what they allow home users to do. (I live with this reality every day -- Comcast is the only ISP at my home).

But those things aren't evil because Comcast / AT&T use them for evil. If Comcast hops into an fast car and hits a bunch of pedistrians, that doesn't make "fast cars" evil. It makes Comcast evil.

Bandwidth caps aren't inherently evil, they're a useful way for low-volume users to save cash on their connection. Shared connections aren't inherently evil, they're a useful way for home users to get faster burst speeds that they normally couldn't afford.

Does Comcast use those restrictions to do evil things? Absolutely. Does Comcast lie about their restrictions, or purposly mislead folks around them. Certainly. Should ISP's be infinitely more transparent about their pricing and services? Absolutely! (and some already are).

Should we abolish these things just because Comcast uses them for evil? Not at all.


Are you sure about those numbers? That's massively expensive, and it's hard to imagine ever even being profitable. If you charged your users 60 dollars a month at a minimum for access to that line you'd still need a minimum of 33 people, for one area. At just the rates you describes. Let alone the 33 cents per foot for the cable lines going to peoples houses and additional expenditures.

How on earth is the internet even possible at these rates?

Googles charging people 70 a month of gigabit up and down, those are sparsely connected homes throughout Kansas. The monthly maintenance cost alone for one block must be enormous, and for what? Two or three homes each block?

I was willing to accept that they were losing money on this endeavor, but not as catastrophically as this!


> but with service only capable of around 100mbit at the highest.

I can tell you from my direct personal knowledge, that my neighbors' and my combined speed through this ISP can exceed 200mbit, and there is another ISP available in this building that can exceed 110mbit. We are getting a third ISP in 2014 that is several orders of magnitude faster, so that will be at least 3 lines to this 10-unit building that have objectively-measured speeds exceeding 100mbit.

It is entirely possible that this 200mbit+ backhaul is shared over multiple buildings, but if that is the case, I do not notice. I move on the order of 25GB a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and consulting 2 years of router logs suggests that I have never dropped below 30mbit (e.g., assuming both endpoints are up). That is sufficiently close to the performance of a dedicated line that moving any closer is irrelevant for any application I would ever have.

What I am saying is that this shared line is managed very well. And it is reasonable expectation for a user of a shared line that it is managed well. It is a reasonable expectation that the user achieve advertised speeds most of the time, and if this is unachievable, then the ISP should advertise achievable speeds. My ISP is perfectly capable of advertising 200mbit (since it is objectively achievable) but instead they advertise 35mbit. It is true that they do not always achieve 35mbit, but the performance is sufficiently close.

For example, it is at this very moment a peak time for a residential area. A speed test suggests I can achieve 33mbit down (94% advertised speed) and 5.5 mbit up (110% advertised speed). This is well within the margin of "close enough" for people who aren't doing high-frequency trading.

> So you won't get every house in a residential area.

Neither will you get every business in a business area. You have not presented a basis upon which to believe that it is more likely for an ISP in a competitive market to get a business customer than a residential customer. So if we assume the fill rate for a residence is 50%, we should assume a similar fill rate for businesses, and the geometric argument I presented still holds.

> If you don't understand the agreement you signed, call your cable company.

It's not a matter of me "not understanding" the agreement. It's a matter of it being objectively unclear.

The cable company is not the arbiter of what the agreement I signed means. The meaning of the agreement is objectively determined by either a judge or the AAA, the application of contract law in the State of Texas, and a good dictionary. Based on my knowledge of the forgoing, I believe that I could host an extremely high-traffic personal website within the terms of the agreement.

Would they like it? No. Will they threaten to cut me off as a customer? Possibly. Is it a violation of the agreement I signed? No. So here we have a situation where the real rules of the road (e.g., they will stop serving me as a customer if I do this) are not in fact the agreement I signed when I signed up for the service, but are arbitrary and unwritten decisions that are subject to the whim of some person at the ISP. I am saying that your claim that most ISPs have clear and fair written rules is objectively false, because there is no rule in my agreement that prevents me from saturating my connection all the time, and yet there are unwritten rules that prevent me from doing so.


I am lost. So upstream costs more than downstream?


To charge more money. However I also think a business expects a different level of tech support and response times to problems. Kings of ant hills (aka a lot of small business owners) truly think they're the next steve jobs and demand gold level support for free.

Also if you're running a small to medium business do you really want to be put in the same queue as little Tommy's grand mother down the street?


Slightly off topic, but browsing the comments on this thread I'm just amazed how good and cheap Internet has become here (Romania) compared to some of the prices out there. A major local provider recently announced a new 1Gbps plan for about 18$/month. I'm currently on their 50Mbps plan, and I get just that: 5MBytes/s up/down.


I'm reading this while I wait for a 10MB upload to crawl to completion on my 768Kbps up connection that costs $40/month. Which is especially sad because I live less than two miles from the dead center of Denver. So yeah, I'm just a bit jealous.


I pay $70USD a month for a barely functioning ADSL line in Australia that might hit 40KB/s on a good day. It's literally faster for me to walk to a place in the city that has fibre and upload files there.


This is great news. Although I doubt they would crack down on people running some low traffic servers for personal use either way, it's good that it is officially clarified.


Definitely appreciate that policy change.


Aren't there a ton of people who moved out there specifically to run their startups on Google Fiber? So all of them are breaking the terms supposedly.


Doesn't this change...nothing? They have always allowed you to run non-commercial servers, haven't they?


No, the original wording was pretty draconian and attracted some complaints: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/08/google-fiber-continues...

Key phrase: "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"


What happened to net neutrality, Google?


This is why I can't stand libertarians. FREEDOM MUST BE PROTECTED WITH LAWS. It's a precedent that has been set in stone since the Bill of Rights!

ljlolel here is, with a straight face, DEFENDING the ability for AT&T to siphon bandwidth off of Google's residential fiber service in order to resell it. Does that really sound reasonable to anyone?

Same deal with the GPL. "OMG I hate the GPL because it doesn't let me take free software and make it proprietary then add all kinds of DRM and shit and subjugate users." Boo fucking hoo!

The intent has always been USER freedom, not freedom for commercial entities are making a living attempting to peddle knockoff products at hiked-up prices.


No, as someone who lives on both sides of that comparison, I would like both kinds of freedom. I don't think they have to be mutually exclusive as long as we set up a few basic rules about the use of infrastructure that everyone needs. Most actual net neutrality proposals go way beyond what is necessary. Much like the GPL.


Better make sure you run adblock while browsing through your VPN to home- wouldn't want anything commercial to go on.

It's all good: Google is just trying to protect you from the evils of money.


Wow, -1. I know I was being a bit snarky. But the definition of "commercial use" is horribly ambiguous, with basically no broad legally defined meaning.

If viewing ads on Google wasn't a commercial use I could hardly imagine anything else being one... but presumably they don't intend to reject commercial uses that make them money.

The whole idea about rejecting commercial uses is wrong-headed. It presumes that you can draw a bright line between someones activities being commercial or not. Really, just like the no-servers prohibition this is a frivolous field of use restriction which serves to act as an excuse for arbitrary enforcement.


EXTRA! New WATER company opening throughout the USA but doesn't allow HOT water.

Google is shit. I hope the US government smacks them for this.


Site looks like shit. Just saying.


Can't have faster home Internet lead to decentralization...


If only it was that simple to make Google stop spying for NSA


Google doesn't spy for the NSA. The NSA might be spying on Google, but that's not the same thing.


Replying to subpoenas and warrants was recently redefined as "spying".


As if NSA is the only problem there




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