RALEIGH, N.C. – Shhh … can you hear it? Come in closer.
Yep, there it is again. Missed it?
In the Olympic Spirit, it was the echoes of gasps as fast-moving footsteps from the U.S. heartland begin to catch Singapore, Finland, and South Korea in broadband speeds with Google shaking up the ISP playing field with the launch of Google Fiber.
Independent municipal efforts have rocketed Chattanooga, Tenn.; Lafayette, La., and Bristol, Va., to very high speeds recently, but the next chapter of the Internet now starts in Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kansas, with Web speeds reportedly 100 times faster than what most Americans have today.
This kind of speed when compared to typical residential speeds from some of the big-boy ISPs today would be like comparing Usain Bolt to the speed of pouring cold molasses on your flapjacks.
Didn’t get that comparison?
Do a Web search for Mr. Bolt in your favorite browser and let us know how fast it you found it. Then, just imagine doing that same search with 1 gig at your fingertips.
Google isn’t rolling out its own fiber network to make money. This is more of an investment in its traditional business model. The more people using the Internet at faster speeds, the better for the search engine giant as users click on ads and services that typically generate more income in day than most of us will see in a year.
Simply put, Google’s business is far more lucrative if consumers have faster broadband connections.
Google’s pricing models in either Kansas City (a $300 one-time install fee for 5 Mps, a $70 monthly charge for 1G, $120 monthly charge for 1G + video) is proving that faster broadband can be delivered at reasonable prices if other parts of a business model support the provision of broadband service.
Some speculate that Google Fiber also is the company’s answer to attacks on network neutrality by the big ISPs. Those large companies note the portentous price of upgrading and maintaining their network, and want to charge websites like Google extra money to allow customers fast access to its sites. Google may be out to prove with Google Fiber that fast networks can be built and maintained at reasonable prices.
At the beginning of the Internet build-out boom there were a lot of people who started local ISPs. Competition was fierce, and everyone tried to one-up each other to attract new customers. But, the established telephone and cable companies didn’t like that too much and quickly used their wealth of resources to gobble up many of the smaller providers.
While Google cannot match the breadth and reach of the networks of the big ISPs (at least not yet) they will be able to provide valuable data about the costs of running a network of this kind of speed. If they can prove that fast networks can be built and maintained at reasonable prices, then the attacks on net neutrality by big service providers may be called into question.
Google Fiber right now is the best and fastest ISP in the history of consumer internet, but it’s not going to magically make it so you can download anything online at a full 1 gigabit per second. There are going to be some limitations. Think of it like having a brand new Ferrari stuck in rush hour on the I-440 beltline when you reach points beyond the Google Fiber network. You look cool and could zoom by everyone without any problems, except everyone else is parked in front you just inching right along as usual.
Google Fiber is an experiment free of caps and non-neutral practices that has put the company in a unique position to drive competition and innovation among some of the complacent cable operators. But, for now, we’ll have to see the cost analysis and data on the efficiency of running a network like this when that information becomes available.
Until then, keep listening for the fast footsteps of a new entrant in the race for faster broadband in the U.S.