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Questions to Ask at Google-Fiber Announcement
Submitted by Scott Cleland on Mon, 2012-07-23 15:17
Listed below are pertinent questions to ask Google at its Google Fiber announcement July 26th, given Google's "launch-first, fix-later" philosophy, and its PR practice of omitting material facts and information. (See the Google-Kansas City Agreement here.)
- Gag order on City: Why is it appropriate to legally require (Sect. 5o) publicly-elected city officials to obtain "Google's approval for all public statements or announcements related to the City's project?" Who works for whom? What is Google afraid that City officials might say?
- Fulfilling open access promises? There have been reports Google may be "backing off its commitment to an open fiber" network. Will Google operate an open wholesale network for resellers as originally promised? [Google Official blog (2-10-10): "We'll operate an "open access" network, giving users the choice of multiple service providers. And consistent with our past advocacy, we'll manage our network in an open, non-discriminatory and transparent way."]
- Quantification of subsidies: Given the agreement Kansas City gives Google for 10+ years: free central office space, free power, no charge "for access to the City's assets and infrastructure" (Sect. 2c-d, 3), no charge for rights of way, permits and inspection fees (Sect. 3), free city office space (Section 5c), settlement-free interconnections with anchor institutions (Sect. 5q), and free marketing and direct mail (Sect. 5p) -- substantial business subsidies not available to competitors -- what is the estimated total, and per-subscriber-amount of public subsidies that Google extracted from Kansas City taxpayers?
- Level playing field? Why should only Google get special multi-million dollar subsidies from Kansas City taxpayers that are unavailable to Google's broadband competitors: Time Warner Cable, AT&T-UVerse, and SureWest? Were large city taxpayer-subsidies always part of Google's plan to "offer service at a competitive price?" And why should all city taxpayers be forced to subsidize luxury broadband service that they don't need or want, and won't subscribe to?
- How many KC Google employees? Does Google plan to hire any more than the 2-3 Google Kansas City employees they indicated they would hire at a town hall meeting?
- Deep-Packet-Inspection: Will Google's terms-of-use for this fiber service be similar to Google's terms-of-service for Android, YouTube, Chrome etc., so that Google is granted de facto "deep packet inspection" rights to all the traffic on Google Fiber?
- Surveillance & Tracking: Does Google have any plans to scan, inspect, filter, track, place cookies, or record the traffic on Google fiber for any Google purpose other than the neutral transmission of Internet packets?
- Six Strikes Copyright Infringement Enforcement: Will Google, like some other ISPs, send several escalating notices to users determined to be downloading copyrighted material without permission in order to discourage online piracy? If not, why is Google so aggressively protecting Google's own intellectual property rights (Sect. 7) in the agreement?
- Increasing Digital Divide? As a vocal proponent for universal broadband and ending the digital divide of digital-haves and have-nots, why isn't Google building out 1 Gbps broadband to all Kansas City citizens (Sect. 2a) irrespective of their socio-economic status?
- Meeting Advertised Speed? After publicly advertising 1 Gpbs broadband speeds to generate excitement for over one thousand cities to bid to host the Google Fiber Experiment, why is Google walking back on that signature public representation, by now committing that Google will only "make commercially reasonable efforts to achieve a service speed of up to 1Gpbs" (Sect. 4a) -- especially given Google's pressure on the FCC to monitor and measure broadband speeds to ensure they are living up to their advertised speed?
- Regulatory parity? Does Google plan to abide by all the same local and federal regulations (telecom, cable, Open Internet, EEO, privacy etc.) that Google's competitors must obey?
- Overtaken by events? Given it has taken Google so long to start Google Fiber, has the market overtaken Google, given that Verizon FiOS already offers 300 Mpbs service and is experimenting with symmetrical 10 Gpbs broadband, and Comcast/cable is prepping a 305 Mpbs service and Cable Labs is also working on 10 Gpbs DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems? Simply, what can users do with 1 Gpbs Google Fiber that they can't do with 300 Mpbs Cable DOCSIS 3.0?
- "Demand-driven" build: What percent of consumers does Google estimate will take Google's gigabit service? What is a "competitive price" for 1 Gig broadband service? What's Google's estimated cost-per-subscriber and will it be more or less than competitors cost-per-subscriber and why? How many takers or what percent of consumers are necessary for Google to break even for shareholders in its "competitive" business model? How important are Google shareholder interests to Google's long-term commitment to subsidize this effort?
- Role of advertising: Will part of the plan to make 1 Gig broadband service profitable come from advertising? Will consumers be able to opt-out of advertising and get just broadband service?
- Google's WiFi lessons: If Google's fiber experiment includes routers or set-top boxes that leverage WiFi to create a free city-wide WiFi network, will Google apply design/privacy/security lessons learned in Street View's secret WiFi recording of household's wireless signals without the users' permission? Will Google ask for consumers' permission to tap into their WiFi router signals this time and what measures will protect their privacy and security?
- Any Power bill cap for Kansas City? Given that the Agreement offers Google an open-ended right to add other services (Sect. 4d) which could include cloud computing and data center services that would consume extraordinary amounts of power, is there any cap on the amount of space and power subsidies the City could owe Google under the agreement (Sect. 2c)?
- Google Termination rights: How committed is Google to serving Kansas City long term, if it negotiated a "right to terminate the agreement for convenience at any time up to two (2) years after the construction commences on the fiber network?" (Sect. 12d)
- Special privileges: Does Google think the extraordinary special privileges Google extracted to deploy fiber (Sect. 5a-q), that are not available to any other entity, should be available to all broadband competitors in the city in the future, and if not, why not?
- Lessons learned: Would you recommend that all cities adopt a more accommodative and hospitable approach like Kansas City has provided Google, in order to encourage more high-speed broadband deployment?