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Google's Gigabit Internet: Not coming to a neighborhood near you

Julie Sartain | Nov. 20, 2013
Unless you're lucky enough to live in Kansas City, Provo or Austin.

When Google announced plans in 2010 to jump into the broadband business, the company received more than 1,000 applications from communities hoping to be selected for Google Fiber, which promised gigabit-speed Internet at low prices or even free Internet for seven years if you chose a slower speed.

As we head into 2014, Google has delivered super-fast Internet to exactly one place, greater Kansas City; it's just now rolling out the service to Provo, Utah -- where it purchased a pre-existing municipal network for $1; and has announced plans for Austin, Texas, in 2014.

After that, who knows? Google has not released any further scheduling information.

But if you're Verizon, Comcast or AT&T, you might be breathing a little easier these days, knowing that Google apparently is not planning to buy up all that unused dark fiber and compete in the residential broadband market on a nationwide scale -- at least for now.

There has always been speculation about Google's motives, and, Google being Google, answers have been hard to come by. Is this just an experiment? Another attention-grabbing sideshow, like those mysterious barges floating in San Francisco Bay and Portland, Maine? Is Google trying to compete head-to-head against the incumbents? Or is Google trying to nudge the incumbents to step up their broadband game by introducing the specter of competition? After all, faster Internet means Google can deliver more ads to more end users, which is how the company makes its money.

As Google spokesperson Jenna Wandres puts it: ``The simple answer to why' is this: it's for Google users. They keep telling us that they're tired of waiting for incredibly slow upload and download speeds that often take hours to just transfer an album of photos from one location to another."

According to Wandres, it's all about speed. She pointed out that Google developed the Chrome browser to make the Internet experience faster, but it can only be as fast as the Internet connections and the hardware and networks that support that infrastructure. So now, they're installing Google fiber, to make it faster.

"For the next big leap," says Wandres, "Gigabit speeds will bring new apps and talented developers to the table, who can and will take advantage of these remarkable speeds." She explains that organizations such as Kansas City Startup Village (KCSV) -- an ecosystem of grassroots individuals working together to create an entrepreneur community -- thrive in this type of environment; that is, an area where high-speed Internet allows developers to collaborate and share ideas.

Competition is good news
According to Forrester analyst Dan Bieler, Google Fiber "is good news because competition increases the pressure on carriers and cable providers to bring true broadband service to more households and businesses, if they want to compete effectively with Google. In my view, it is unlikely that Google fiber will target rural areas, but it's clearly an interesting option for Google to target higher-income urban areas as well as central business districts.''


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