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Google Fiber divides users into 'the fast' and 'the furious'

Mike Elgan | April 29, 2013
Google's Fiber project in in Kanas City, Austin and Provo shows that very high Internet speeds are possible in the U.S., but nobody except Google is working to make it happen.

No, AT&T didn't announce gigabit fiber in Austin

Hours after Google announced that Austin would get the Google Fiber treatment, AT&T (which is headquartered in Dallas) announced that it would build a gigabit fiber network of its own in Austin.

Or, at least that's what the news reports would have you believe. But if you look at the press release, it was really a passive-aggressive bit of whining about Google getting special treatment from Austin authorities.

Instead of announcing a plan to build fiber optic connectivity in Austin, AT&T actually announced that "it is prepared to build an advanced fiber optic infrastructure in Austin," according to the announcement press release.

"Prepared to build" does not mean "plans to build."

Then the whining began: AT&T's plans "anticipate it will be granted the same terms and conditions as Google on issues such as geographic scope of offerings, rights of way, permitting, state licenses and any investment incentives."

The release ended with this zinger: "Our potential capital investment will depend on the extent we can reach satisfactory agreements."

In other words, the whole reason for AT&T's press release was not to announce the intention to build fiber optic gigabit Internet connectivity, but instead to complain about preferential treatment of Google by local authorities.

AT&T has a point. Local, state and government regulations and restrictions are a big part of why our Internet speeds are so slow. And that's yet another reason why Google Fiber is so brilliant.

Google is simply smarter than AT&T

Rather than approaching individual cities and begging them for permission to lay fiber, Google held a big contest and said, in effect: "OK, we're going to pick a city to gain a massive economic boost. You want it? What are you going to do for us?"

Then they started choosing from among the 1,100 applicant cities based on which ones were most serious about making Google Fiber possible.

In fact, Google Fiber triggered a gold rush of entrepreneurial investment and activity.

One enterprising local even rents their Google Fiber-connected home at a premium on AirBnB, and calls it " Hacker House."

Google Fiber is creating a lot of hype and attention. It's making people realize that affordable, ultra high-speed Internet connectivity is possible.

It's making people look at their local governments and ISPs and ask: Why can't I have this?

But mostly, Google Fiber is making people mad. And that's the right emotion in the face of the incredible waste of time and money and opportunity that takes place every day that goes by while we're held back by yesterday's Internet speeds.

But let's not just get mad. Let's get fiber.


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