Wireless Infrastructure

03:25 PM
Mary Jander
Mary Jander
Commentary
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Google's Grand Fiber Plan: Cue The Eye Roll

Google will potentially expand municipal broadband coverage to 34 additional US cities.

Search giant Google is expanding its US municipal broadband project in a bid to become a leading American carrier. Excuse me while I roll my eyes.

Whenever Google comes out with one of its grand pronouncements, particularly in this area, I feel compelled to chorus, "Here we go again." Perhaps this time I'm being too cynical. Perhaps not.

A bit of background: It's been four years since Google announced plans to get into municipal broadband services. After getting over 1,000 cities to respond eagerly to their initial invite early in 2010, the company started small, with rollouts of one-gigabit Internet connections to homes in Kansas City, Kansas. Three years later, the trial started in Provo, Utah, and Austin, Texas.

That was pretty much it. Until this week, when Google announced it has reached out to 34 US cities to chat about bringing them one-gigabit fiber broadband.

The company described its plan in a blog by Milo Medin, VP of Google Access Services:

    We've long believed that the Internet's next chapter will be built on gigabit speeds, so it's fantastic to see this momentum. And now that we've learned a lot from our Google Fiber projects in Kansas City, Austin and Provo, we want to help build more ultra-fast networks. So we've invited cities in nine metro areas around the U.S. -- 34 cities altogether -- to work with us to explore what it would take to bring them Google Fiber.

Read the rest of this article on UBM's Future Cities.

Mary Jander is managing editor of UBM's Future Cities. Previously, she was executive editor of Internet Evolution, site editor of Byte and Switch, and a longtime senior editor of Light Reading. She has spent over 27 years reporting and writing on information technology and ... View Full Bio
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Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 3:32:16 PM
Interesting perspective
Mary brings perpspective to this Google news that many mainstream news outlets missed. Do you share her attitude, readers?
sethkroll
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sethkroll,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 3:52:04 PM
Re: Interesting perspective
What perspective. She simply commented that maybe Google will follow through on a grand plan, or maybe they will not. A unique or even usful perspective would dig a little deeper as to why she rolls her eyes at Google's notion of bringing internet services to more US cities. She does not even suggest any evidence that they have made any grand prolamations before that thery have failed to follow through on. This post deserves to be hosted on Information Weak.
BadArticle_Yup
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BadArticle_Yup,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 4:01:06 PM
Re: Interesting perspective
I registered for an account just to say how much I agree with sethkroll.  This article is a worthless written whining of a biased author and it's best part was Seth's comment.

+1 for InformationWeak

 
sethkroll
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sethkroll,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 4:37:23 PM
Re: Interesting perspective
That's funny, I only registered for an account to say how terrible this post is, particularly after the first commentor tried to validate the article.
anon7389186690
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anon7389186690,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 4:14:23 PM
Re: Interesting perspective
There is no perspective here. There is a statement of cynicism, a couple of examples that demonstrate no basis for that cynicism, and a stuttering fade to black with no point made whatsoever. And you people get paid for this drivel?
buckeyecal
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buckeyecal,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 4:21:54 PM
Re: Interesting perspective
What perspective?  They have trialed the deployment and are now looking to do a roll-out?  Duh.  This is prudent business practice.  There is no valid content to this article and in turn no perspective in my opinion.
Buck Bagok
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Buck Bagok,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 4:18:48 PM
fastlane
Ms. Jander's glass is profoundly half empty. An entity as large and complicated as Google evolves on much more gradual timescale than, say, Richard Lenski's e.coli, so it may seem slow to some. They're smart and careful (Google, not the bacteria). 
buckeyecal
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buckeyecal,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 4:19:36 PM
Poor Article, no facts, no depth, no good!
It is obvious this author is just writing to seek headlines.  She has no clue on the industry, why Google would do trials, the costs/benefits of the industry, etc.  This level of "journalism" is the reason that many readers are bypassing traditional informational brands and using social sites to get their news.  The writers have no clue but to be cynical.  
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 4:45:25 PM
Re: Poor Article, no facts, no depth, no good!
This piece is clearly labeled commentary -- so feel free to disagree with the writer's point of view. But she does raise interesting facts and cautions regarding Kansas and Provo that will be new to some of our readers. Google's speed on this effort is also debatable --  feel free to say you think Google is moving plenty fast. The author brought relevant facts to light and put them in context, then added her skepticism as a longtime watcher of the Google plans. Let's discuss your opinions, pros and cons here, of the Google plans, but let's not pretend people don't want opinion, clearly labeled as opinion, online. Commentary is a mainstay of our content mix here at InformationWeek and that's not going to change.
MNJander
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MNJander,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 5:43:01 PM
Re: Poor Article, no facts, no depth, no good!
To tell you the truth, I have talked to Google about this and other projects. I've followed this one in particular since it was announced in 2010. One of the reasons the project caught my attention then was that so many cities glommed right on, eager to get Google to come to town like the new marshal and bust the grip of other suppliers. At that time, Google implied a project bigger than what it actually provided. I believed then and I still do that Google ran off at its PR mouth.

That's not unusual for any company, and really, we can't blame Google for stirring up lots of excitement without actually delivering the goods -- or delivering them in a timeframe we'd like to see. The job of marketing is to create buzz, right?

This doesn't mean we need to capitulate to any vendor's PR machinery. It's nice to read and think about the possibilities Google suggests, but it's also important to ask questions. Hey, if Google comes through, Google Fiber will be awesome. But I'm going to hedge my bets. Nothing this big is simple, and it's going to take a lot longer to see results and real trends.

Mary Jander
MNJander
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MNJander,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 6:18:30 PM
Re: Poor Article, no facts, no depth, no good!
Mary Jander here again. One thing I'd also like to stress is that Google isn't the only player trying to get into the municipal fiber market. As I mention in the blog, I believe we're going to see more entities emerge, with some surprising results. The potential consolidation of Time Warner/Comcast could add fuel, too. But I'm not convinced yet that Google will stay the course if it proves to be too difficult or distracts from Google's core businesses.

A key point here is that there is a difference between what Google promotes and what it actually delivers. There always has been; the company's pattern is to run a project up the flagpole to see who salutes, then back off if they don't get the results they want. Since Google has such deep resources, this doesn't seem to affect their bottom line.

In the case of Google Fiber, I do think Google is more willing now to push harder into the market. That is significant; but it doesn't mean we're going to see Google making much of a dent in the overall US broadband picture, at least for awhile. If that makes me a poor judge, then so be it. Let's all check back on this in a year or so, I'd say.

 
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 4:48:34 PM
Re: Poor Article, no facts, no depth, no good!
Wow, quite the pile-on. And mostly from anonymous commenters. If you're all so much smarter and more informed and enlightened than Ms. Jander and so willing to take shots, why don't you state who you are.

Google made a big announcement four years ago that it was going to get into the broadband business, and four years later it hasn't rolled anything out. We need more facts, yes (and you're not going to find them on "social sites"), but four years is a helluva long time to "conduct trials," especially for a company so proud of moving in Internet time. 

As for the commenter who thinks Google is in a better position to provide telecom services than the telcos and cable providers, citing as evidence the fact that Google's stock is trading 80x higher than the stocks of the entrenched providers, let me just say that's Google's impressive stock price has nothing to do with its telecom posturing and everything to do with its search advertising profits and profit margins. 

I'll never underestimate Google. But the telecom business has confounded other smartest guys in the room before.

 
FormerCAMan
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FormerCAMan,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 5:33:10 PM
Re: Poor Article, no facts, no depth, no good!
Well Rob, some of us might work in the industry.

What I didn't go into, but should have is my rationale for stating that Google is in a better position to do this.  If one were to simply look at the financials for all of the major players, then compare them to Google's financials, you see that Google has nearly 11B in cash, their debt is relatively very low (lower than all three of the big competitiors), and yet their income EBITDA is on par with all of the big three.  In fact, their income is greater than two out of three of the big three.

The broadband business is very messy to get into, there are regulatory hurdles, municipalities to deal with, leases and easements that have to be procured, etc.  Google had to experience that mess and find a way to get lessons learned, analyze them, and then work out a project plan that can work harmoniously with the deployment schedule.  

My point is this, it takes awhile to do these things.  FiOS, DSL, etc all took years to implement, and the players there already had pretty much most of the fiber in the ground.  I don't expect Google to be able to deploy it all tomorrow, or even within the next 5 years, but what I can tell you is that once the fiber is there, that is more than 3/4 of the battle.

 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 5:36:16 PM
Not San Francisco?
I expect I'll give Google Fiber a try if ever gets to San Francisco.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 5:39:45 PM
Re: Poor Article, no facts, no depth, no good!
Fair enough, FormerCAMan (is that California or Computer Associates?). As I said, I wouldn't underestimate Google's abilities here either. But the reasons you state for why it's taking Google so long to break into broadband are the reasons I'm not so sure Google will succeed: It's a regulatory quagmire. Google may ultimately decide that it's not a business it wants to slog through.

 

 
anon4050172337
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anon4050172337,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 5:08:44 PM
Not very good
Same here. registered just to comment on the lack of substance to this article.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2014 | 9:41:29 PM
Let Google compete
For those listening over several years, Mary has a point when it comes to Google pronouncements. They tend to sound very good taken in the abstract. It's only the details of reality that slow them down. That said, I would look forward to Google providing competition for high speed Internet access. I agree with Mitch Wagner. We don't yet know what innovation applications it will enable.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/21/2014 | 8:56:32 AM
Re: Let Google compete
I think Google is actually doing this the right way though.  They are coming out and telling people what they want to do.  Yes the implementation does get slowed down but that's part of why the announcement is a good idea.  It makes people look at why it is so hard to change communications infrastructure.  I think part of their goal with these announcements is to get people to ask why  it is being held up and get influential people to move a bit quicker to resolve very old issues.
Somedude8
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/21/2014 | 12:31:50 PM
Timing!
From the movie "Bad Grandpa":
"Ask me what the secret of comedy is"

"Okay, what is the"

"TIMING"

Not sure the timing of this announcement is a coincidence or not. The recent TW/Comcast merger thing has a lot of folks up in arms. I would love to know how many of these target cities are served by Time Warner Cable or Comcast.

They say this rollout would exapnd Google Fiber's reach to about 10% of the US population. I would love to know what the reach of the combined TW/CC empire would be, and how much of that is where they are pretty much the only broadband game in town.

Here is the Google page the expansion: https://fiber.google.com/newcities/

The biggest problem with this service expansion is that I CAN'T GET IT. GOOGLE YOU ARE KILLING ME! But I'm not bitter.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
2/28/2014 | 10:11:16 PM
Slow start, but maybe appropriate
I think it's interesting that over on UBM Future Cities (where the full article resides) the feedback doesn't mirror what we're seeing here on IW. It makes me wonder whether perhaps some of the posters at least only read the abbreviated version here, and did not click through to read the full article on UBM. I missed the link at first myself to be honest, and if I were to base my feedback on just what's hosted on IW I'd be in agreement. The full article  I felt provided a lot more depth, and was better laid out than this (necessarily) hacked up version - and was not deserving of the partially anonymous grief it's taking here. As somebody commented, it's cool to disagree, but do us a favor and share your opinion back with the rest of us so we can learn from you too!

 

As for Google's plans themselves, I suspect that they were initially over-ambitious in their expectations as to what it would take to depot this kind of network, and most likely underestimated the joys of working with local government like this (and how slowly everything can move). This is almost like a slower version of LTE deployment where the trial cities had it for a while during field testing and optimization phases, then some key areas were chosen for initial deployment and high return in terms of population density, and then finally other areas got considered. Only clearly, pushing out fiber is a much bigger task, even, than pushing out LTE.
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