What does Google Fiber mean for the rest of us?

What does Google Fiber mean for the rest of us?

Summary: So Google is beginning their fiber efforts in earnest in Kansas City...What does that mean for the rest of us fighting with our crappy ISPs?

TOPICS: Google

I choose to live in a rural area because it's a great place to raise my kids and I like that my rooster isn't waking up 100 neighbors (just 3 or 4). Living out here, though, comes at a price in terms of broadband. I'm writing this while connected to the Internet via Wildblue's Exede satellite service and 3mbps DSL, load-balanced on my Untangle box. Many folks within a couple miles of me don't even have access to DSL, though, to compensate for the ridiculous data caps and very high cost on the satellite service. Even the new satellite service, however, at 12mbps (when the weather is good), can't touch what others get with cable, FIOS, or, particularly, Google Fiber.

Honestly, I can't even imagine what gigabit speeds would feel like. Only about 20% of my traffic goes through my satellite service, since we blow through our 25GB data cap in just a few days when we use it 100%. And satellite remains plagued by latency, making it a choice between evils (slow DSL with low latency vs. snappy satellite with high ping times) for web-based video and audio applications. Fiber to my doorstep is a distant dream.

Google's entry into residential fiber, though, is interesting for its role in the larger market. The search giant is just beginning its work in one city - there is obviously a ways to go before Google takes this pilot to other communities. That said, Verizon, Charter, Comcast, and other high-speed ISPs, many of whom increasingly throttle customers on their fastest networks, have to be at least a little nervous. I'd like to believe they're a lot nervous. Like shaking in their boots nervous.

Unfortunately, I don't think they are. Every indication I get as I talk to various ISPs, both in my quest personally for greater speed and in the context of broadband for schools indicates that they don't even have Google on their radar. They've had protected monopolies for way too long and are having serious trouble justifying further expansion of high-speed infrastructure when margins are so low. In fact, as Google drives down prices (their pricing is competitive with much slower services), broadband margins will get even slower, creating disincentives for the major ISPs to expand further.

Google, as with their search and other free or heavily subsidized projects, wants eyeballs. They have incentives that extend far beyond selling subscriptions for broadband. They want consumers to have massive data pipes to make sure they're using Nexus tablets, Android-based TV solutions, streaming on Android phones, and Googling like never before. In exchange, the people who flock to their service and begin using the Internet to fully replace everything from traditional phone service to regular TV will see Google Ads. All of this feeds Google's primary business model.

Check out the plans page on Google's Fiber site. Can you say ecosystem? Good! I knew you could!


So what does this mean for the rest of us? It means that someday we'll have more ubiquitous broadband but that it probably won't come from one of the traditional ISPs. It might not come from Google either, but it's going to come from private companies with their own novel incentives to make sure that everyone can consume rich content and spend more time online. If the Facebook IPO hadn't tanked, for example, it wouldn't be inconceivable that Facebook Internet might emerge. Or Netflix Internet (not going to happen there, either, I'm afraid). Or Disney Internet (far more likely, although not through any source, just because it makes sense that a content company would want us consuming more content faster).

Personally, I welcome it. I can barely get Verizon to add a new phone line to my house. They've already told me that our local central office is closed to further expansion forever and that I will never be able to add another DSL connection at my house (unless, of course, someone in my community dies or moves and nobody grabs up their service before I do). So I watch the obituaries.

Rather than reading the obits, though, I'd rather a private company just sweep in and buy my eyeballs. They're certainly for sale, not to the highest bidder but the fastest.

Topic: Google

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • It means...

    ...that telcos and cable companies will band together to protect their franchises, claiming that it is absolutely immoral for the public sector to compete with the private sector under any circumstances, even if otherwise, there would be no meaningful competition at all.
    John L. Ries
    • re: It means...

      How does that argument work against Google?
      none none
      • I'm under the impression...

        ...that the city will own and operate the new network; not Google/
        John L. Ries
    • In Las Vegas...

      Century link now has fibre in my neighbor hood. Get this: They are legally prevented from delivering anything faster than 75mbs. Some total BS about how anything faster would hurt the competition.

      Nevada has a lot of laws like that and has been challanged up to the supreme court and lost. The classic was a law that stated that you could not open a taxi cab service company unless you could prove that you would not take customers from existing companies. In just 7 years the supreme court ruled in favor of letting a new company start. There are similiar cases right now going to the supreme court started in Las Vegas.

      Wrong venue but could go on and on citing facts.
      • Welcome to America

        where capitalism and free market is the worst thing there is! I think we ought to let the government take it ALL over. THEN we'd all be better off!!!!!
        • I hope you're joking...

          You realize that capitalism and the free market are why Google is doing it's thing... If the government took it all over, it would be like all the current ISPs, only worse! If the free market system were allowed to work in cases like this (as opposed to allowing them to continue to hide behind ASININE laws to protect them from competition), we would all have choices, and the big boys would either play, or their business would fail. That is how it should be. If you get stale, and refuse to change to meet the demands of your customers, then the customers will leave, and go to someone who IS listening to them. That's the idea of a free market economy.
          • Thanks thittl!

            At the end of my remarks I should have added the word (SARCASM) I was being sarcastic! ;)

            I'm all for the free market system, however our government seems to think they need to be in control of everything. (hence my remark)

            Just having a bad 3 1/2 years!
          • Please indicate sarcasm by using the proper tags

            Not like this.
          • Crap!

            ZDnet won't allow the sarcasm tag!
          • It's a shame we're not a free market

            We've propped up the corporations that gutted the middle class workers (offshoring, automation, etc) with bailouts... on top of the usual taxpayer-funded subsidies that have gone on for decades.

            There is nothing "free market" in any way shape or form going on.

            Just wealth distribution.

            Since labor creates all wealth and customers now want everything for free, at worker expense.
          • Naive dogma

            You're obviously repeating someone else's ideas. What's with this dribble about "free market" and how it "should be" and businesses better do what customers demand?
            Real economist here, how bout you change your login to Alan_Greenspan? Please, where have you been? these telco/ISP/FCC cartels serve their shareholders, and could care less about their "customers" , it's a regulatory environment. It's clear that telecom de-regulation legislation was essentially written by industry lobbyists and handed to "our" corporate-financed politicians. The FCC has been a joke since Michael Powell was pretending to he in charge. Take the Econ 101 lecture somewhere else.
          • Not disagreed,

            but I think the word you sought to use was "drivel".
          • Cognitive Dissonance much?


            You claim deregulation, but then assert that powerful and effective regs bearing a negative impact are being written by lobbyists and the establishment. You say free market powers created the problem that the FCC is strangling the industry. Putting the inmates in charge is NOT deregulation; it's the exchange of a administrative regime. It's not freedom, it's still a PRISON.
      • Taxicabs

        That's not really unusual. In New York, there are a certain number of taxicab licenses to prevent the city from being overrun by cabs. (you see a LOT as it is) So you can't just come in and start a cab company, or expand one, without buying an existing license from another cab. It's not intended to be anti-competitive.

        But there's certainly no competition when it comes to internet or TV. In most markets you get wired telephone (and DSL) or cable TV (and internet and maybe phone). The cable companies are licensed monopolies, and of course the telco is considered a utility (but not its DSL). We need to break those monopolies.
        big red one
  • A private company won't save you, either.

    Verizon, ect are private companies, too. If there's no profit incentive for a company with a physical presence in your area to expand, what incentive will some smaller, less funded company have to expand to your area?
    William Farrel
    • etc

      I don't know why so many use ect for the abbreviated form of etcetera the actual abbreviation is etc.

      Is is possible to supply your own cable/FO or otherwise? I don't have any idea if it would be feasible or cost worth or not. It just seems practical.
      Around here in OKC the story is the same, I knew of one family that was paying for an ISDN line to get HS internet, too far out to get cable or DSL, don't know what they use now, this was ten years ago or so.
    • 100% agreed

      If a private company doesn't see an area as being sufficiently profitable, they will ditch it. Once people start thinking into that, they might realize a theoretical potential that they'd rather not want to think about...

      And private vs public, it's the same paradigm but a different owner. Those who are workers and customers wouldn't know the difference, and there are fewer differences between the owners than what most people realize... but that's not to say there aren't any differences..
    • Uh, check your history

      The U.S. gov typically doesn't invade a market directly. i.e. They are the official operator of every major port in the U.S., but outsource the management. In communications, the U.S. chose AT&T to take over telephones and the U.S. government created NBC to control TV and radio. When people complained about NBC, the U.S. government spun off ABC. Fanny and Freddie are other examples of the federal government exerting HUGE HUGE influence over an industry, and then screaming it's the free market's fault when everything goes awry. While ABC and NBC are fairly legitimately private companies NOW, that's only been in the last 20 years... since deregulation allowed cable to come in and eat their lunch.

      AT&T, however, has effectively remained a gov't backed powerhouse, only now it's a split house. Verizon is AT&T by a different name, and the Bush administration rubberstamped much of Verizon's expansion. AT&T is SBC, which was SBC+Bell South, which was 1/3 of AT&T. AT&T's expansion efforts were similarly streamlined by the gov't. These are shell games only, but apparently you've been fooled.
  • A private company won't save you, either.

    Verizon, ect are private companies, too. If there's no profit incentive for a company with a physical presence in your area to expand, what incentive will some smaller, less funded company have to expand to your area?
    William Farrel
    • A private company won't save you, either.

      Just goes to shown there's a lot of demand that markets are not prepared to supply. Not just for broadband. Maybe it's time for the blogger's town council to look into supplying the demand in their town.
      none none