Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Will Google Fiber go nationwide?

Today's New York Times has an article on yanking US broadband out of the slow lane. Might Google Fiber inspire broadband competition? Better yet, might it be broadband competition? (One also wonders why this article appeared now -- might it have been encouraged by Google PR)?

The article presents a good overview of the mediocre state of broadband connectivity in the US. It prominently features Google Fiber as a possible solution, quoting Milo Medin, who heads the Google Fiber project and was a co-founder of @ Home Networks, a pioneering first attempt to bring broadband to homes shortly after the passage of the 1996 Telecommunication Act (which was designed to create competition, but failed).

Google's announcement that they would install Google Fiber in Provo, Utah, drove speculation that they were planning to go nation wide. This article does nothing to dampen that speculation.

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Update 5/31/2013

Speaking at the Fiber-to-the-Home Council meeting, Milo Medin, Vice President of Access Services for Google, told an audience of city planners, engineers, and mayors that Google Fiber is a business that they expect to make money from -- "a great business to be in."

Medin admitted that at first Google didn't see Google Fiber as a viable business -- it was to be a testbed for Google services. At that time, Google was lobbying for a Gigabit networking bill in Congress, but "someone on the management team" said "If we really think this is important, why whine to the government, when we can do it ourselves?"

Rather than worry about Federal or State governments and subsidies, as the phone and cable companies do, it seems that cooperation with cities is a strategic part of their plan.

The project began with a call for proposals from cities wishing to become the first gigabit testbed. Medin said "We thought a handful of cities would say they were interested ... Then we saw that 1,100 communities replied. No one at the time thought there was a real business here. But that changed when we saw the interest."

Google wants to be your ISP! Wow -- when do the come to Los Angeles?

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Update 6/25/2013

Seattle will have gigabit connectivity for $80 per month with no installation fee with a one year contract. This sounds pretty much like Google Fiber and lends credence to Google's claim that this is a real business.

One caveat -- it is not clear which parts of the city will be covered. As of last December, they spoke of 14 neighborhoods, shown on this map:



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Update 7/2/2013

This article and picture gallery profiles Startup Village, home to more than 20 startups in a cluster of small houses in Kansas City. The village was established to take advantage of Google Fiber, but the community of local start-ups is even more important than 1Gbps speed.


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Update 7/15/2013

More innovation spurred by Google Fiber -- The KC Gigabit Education Project.


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Update 8/1/2013

Google to offer Starbucks WiFi (http://bit.ly/142g2Mp). Google says that most locations should see 10x faster Internet speeds than currently available. Every single one of the over 7,000 locations will see this increase in speeds, and the rollout should be completed over the next 18 months. And, Starbucks in areas with Google Fiber access will utilize Google Fiber and its gigabit Internet speeds.

Bob Frankston (http://bit.ly/1edA9J7) has pointed out that as browsing speed rises, ad clicks rise, so Google has a hidden motive for gigabit speed.

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Update 8/5/2013

Japan and Korea lead in fiber penetration -- US 14th

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that Japan and Korea lead the world in fiber broadband penetration. The US is 14th, trailing Turkey. I've given up on ever seeing FIOS in my neighborhood -- let's root for Google Fiber.

More statistics at the OECD Broadband Portal.

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Update 8/15/2013

DSL Reports has seen an internal memo sent to Comcast employees, which says they will revise their bundle offerings and pricing in Provo, Utah in response to Google Fiber.  Google is offering aggressive competition, and, if the leaked report is accurate, Comcast will still be much slower than Google.

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Update 10/26/2014

Google has a 180 day license to experiment with millimeter wirelss transmission. The high frequency transmission would cover only short distances, but, if they are thinking of taking Google Fiber nationwide, they may be looking for a technology to cover the last few hundred yards from an access point on a street to the houses on the block. Google (or municipally owned fiber) would provide high speed backhaul.

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Update 10/27/2014

Google is evaluating 34 cities for the possibility of installing Google Fiber.


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Update 10/29/2014

Google has a 180 day license to experiment with millimeter wireless transmission. The high frequency transmission would cover only short distances, but, if they are thinking of taking Google Fiber nationwide, they may be looking for a technology to cover the last few hundred yards from an access point on a street to the houses on the block. Google fiber (or municipal fiber, as in Stockholm) would provide high speed backhaul.

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Update 3/2/2015

Milo Medin, VP of Access Services at Google Fiber, spoke of problems they have dealing with city bureaucracy at the Comtel Summit last week.

Medin mentioned byzantine permission processes, inaccurate information about infrastructure and the reluctance of owners of multi-unit buildings to cooperate as hurting some cities chance to attract Google Fiber.

His remarks must have left folks from the incumbent ISPs smiling and mumbling "we told you so." They also make me curious as to the nature of the deals Google makes with the cities. Does Google expect some sort of advantage over the incumbents? Do they prohibit municipal ownership of infrastructure in the future?

Google is offering a terrific deal in Fiber cities today, but what will happen in, say, ten years if Google advertising revenue has flattened and the company has a lot of employees and overhead? Will they become just another oligopolistic ISP?

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Update 3/4/2015

Under Title II, Google can now access telephone poles, simplifying the installation of Google fiber, but what fees do they have to pay for that access and what sort of red tape permitting may they face?

When the 1996 Telecommunications Act ordered incumbent telephone companies to grant competitors access to their lines, the incumbents stifled those efforts. Could something similar happen with respect to phone pole access? (That is not a rhetorical question -- I don't know).