February 20, 2014

Google Fiber: Stop Being a Tease and Get Serious!


Google Fiber, stop the half-measure "exploring new cities" crap already.  I appreciate a good, conservative build-as-you-go business plan like anyone else, but it's time to put some serious marketing, PR, and cash on the table.  America needs a viable third broadband service provider to shake up cable and the AT&T/Verizon telecom duopoly.   You're the only game in the town and if you don't start putting the pedal to the metal, you're going to find expansion is going to get more expensive every month you delay.

"We've long believed that the Internet’s next chapter will be built on gigabit speeds," wrote Google Access Services VP Milo Medin – arguably the godfather of cable broadband from his work at @Home – on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. "So we’ve invited cities in nine metro areas around the U.S. – 34 cities altogether – to work with us to explore what it would take to bring them Google Fiber.”

Potential cities for expansion appear to include Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, Phoenix, Portland (WA), Salt Lake City, San Antonio, and San Jose.  

“While we do want to bring Fiber to every one of these cities, it might not work out for everyone," Medin said. "But cities that go through this process with us will be more prepared for us or any provider who wants to build a fiber network."

Milo, seriously, we are on the same page; as I said earlier this week, "Homes Don't Need 100Mbps" is dumb thinking.  And I appreciate you're going to triple Google Fiber's footprint from three operational cities up to nine.  But it is time to seize your destiny and declare that Google will put gigabit – or faster – fiber into all major U.S. markets by the end of 2020. 

Image via Shutterstock

Is it any coincidence Google Fiber's blog post comes out at the same time the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a lukewarm "Net Neutrality" position and Comcast is planning to gobble up Time Warner Cable?

The 800-pound gorilla in the room is peering and equal access.   Back in Ye Olde Days of the Internet, circa 1993-1997, DIGEX founder Doug Humphrey recognized that that in order to be treated as an equal among bigger firms, you had to have something of value that everyone else wanted – a mass of customers and content.   A policy of mutual assured "destruction" evolved where service providers who tried to block/extort fees from one another by blocking network access to the other's customers ended up causing alienation among their own customer base and other service providers, with someone ultimately relenting within a few days.

Parent Google already has enough content in its search engine and associated properties to ensure that one service provider could directly block it.  But it could find itself in a position in the future where a service provider might be tempted to charge a "premium access fee" to ensure "speedy" service – or else.  Google Fiber provides a quid pro quo trump card to offset such a demand.

Finally, Google should own up to the fact that it is keeping AT&T and Verizon honest.  Cable vs. telecom broadband competition has effectively stalled out.  One need look no further than Austin, where AT&T suddenly found it was capable of providing gigabit service once Google Fiber showed up. There are a number of other cities that need to have Google show up with a backhoe and fiber in order to kickstart gigabit service by the incumbent phone company. 




Edited by Alisen Downey



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