There’s been a great deal of discussion recently about net neutrality: ensuring that all Internet traffic is treated equally, rather than big players paying for so-called fast lanes into our homes. Google was one of 100 tech companies to sign a letter to the FCC in support of net neutrality.

It may thus come as something of a surprise to find that Google Fiber offers what’s known as co-location or peering options to companies like Netflix and Akamai, allowing those companies to house content-delivery servers inside Google’s own facilities. Isn’t this exactly what the company claims to oppose … ?

The answer, says Google, is no: it accepts no payment from companies who co-locate, and does nothing to reduce the speed offered to other traffic.

We give companies like Netflix and Akamai free access to space and power in our facilities and they provide their own content servers. We don’t make money from peering or colocation; since people usually only stream one video at a time, video traffic doesn’t bog down or change the way we manage our network in any meaningful way — so why not help enable it?

It is, the company argues, the best of both worlds. Fiber already delivers the fastest broadband speeds available to consumers, and allowing high-volume streaming services to co-locate their servers ensures that Fiber customers see the full benefit of those speeds.

It’s perhaps a slightly finely-judged argument. With some companies offered the option to co-locate and others not, it’s hard to argue that Google isn’t creating a two-tier service. But because it isn’t making any money from doing so, and co-located services get no special treatment in terms of downstream bandwidth, it’s also fair for Google to argue that there’s no downside.

This is in stark contrast to ISPs like Comcast and Verizon who offer co-location as a paid service, giving rise to the suspicion that companies who choose not to pay will see speeds degrade to the point where they have no option but to sign-up.

Google says that its own motivations are simply to deliver the best possible service.

We do this because it gives Fiber users the fastest, most direct route to their content. That way, you can access your favorite shows faster. All-in-all, these arrangements help you experience the best access to content on the Internet — which is the whole point of getting Fiber to begin with!

Google first unveiled its Gigabit fiber optic broadband service in July 2012, and in February of this year announced that it planned to roll out the service in 34 cities. There was a hint last month in the form of a job listing that New York City might soon be joining this list.

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3 Responses to “Google explains how Fiber supports both co-location and net neutrality”

  1. No, this has nothing to do with net neutrality as defined by the FCC.

    A violation of “Net Neutrality” principles would be an access provider forcing a content provider to pay for their traffic in order to not be rate-limited or suffer otherwise degraded service compared to other content providers that pay said access provider for such a “service”.

    Colocation of content distribution servers, however (whether paid or unpaid) has benefits for both the access network and the content provider:

    – uses less bandwidth on the access network than an interconnection with a given content provider, as content is served from the content provider’s server colocated much closer to the end-user

    – avoids using bandwidth on the content provider’s network (& potentially prevents the content provider from having to pay a transit provider to carry their traffic to the access network).

    Personally I feel that either way:

    – the FCC should stay the heck away from regulating an Internet it doesn’t understand

    – the FCC should pay a heck of a lot more attention to preventing monopoly & duopoly broadband markets that make the US look more & more like a 3rd world backwater nation than the rest of the West

  2. Even though I can understand the perspective of the possibility of undermining net neutrality in this case, I think it makes sense what Google is doing.

    Since Netflix is becoming a commonly used product and uses up a lot of bandwidth for those 1080p viewings (and later on 4K!), if you co-locate the servers so they’re more local, not only are they benefiting the speed of the service, but avoid wasting unecessary bandwidth on the Fiber side. Win-Win. Great Strategy imo.