One of the questions surrounding the evolution of Google Fiber is whether the company’s idea is to become a dominant owner of infrastructure or to do just enough to goad the telephone companies and cable operators into accelerating their high-speed rollouts.
In one view, Google can make a lot of money and enjoy the other advantages of being an infrastructure owner. In the other, the key more firmly is on Google having high bandwidth access to homes and businesses for its products and services. Who actually owns those networks is secondary.
As time passes, the emerging reality is not surprising: It is somewhere in the middle. While Google has moved forward on its own projects, in the big picture it is not about to become another Comcast. The bottom line is that Google is putting its money where its mouth (or PR department) is, but not attempting to rewire the country. While it is impossible to assign a direct cause-and-effect relationship, it may be working: Speeds offered by MSOs and telcos generally are increasing.
Last week, AT&T announced that it is bringing its GigaPower service to as many as 100 locales. This includes 21 major metropolitan areas where the company hasn’t previously offered the service. The press release says that the service, which is based on the U-verse fiber network, can deliver services at speeds of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps).
The influence of Google may be more than just how fast the carriers move. The wording of AT&T’s press release echoes the approach taken by the firm. The company will look at:
…communities that have suitable network facilities, and show the strongest investment cases based on anticipated demand and the most receptive policies will influence these future selections and coverage maps within selected areas.
The targeted areas are highlighted in the release. They include huge metroplexes such as Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, San Diego, St. Louis, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Google Fiber is not slowing down, either. Last week, the company and the city of Portland, Ore., reached a tentative franchise agreement. The story at Oregon Live stresses the preliminary nature of the agreement. Indeed, the story devotes more attention to what could happen to derail the deal than the eventual benefits it could bring.
It is inevitable that the high-speed providers will enter the same markets. A good example is the high-tech college area in and around Chapel Hill, N.C. It is one of the locales AT&T names in its expansion press release and it is being considered for Google Fiber, according to the Daily Tar Heel.
The bottom line is that this is all good news. Whether the catalyst was Google or not, the great increase in networking demand and the willingness of Google, AT&T, Verizon, smaller phone companies, independent providers and the cable operators to lay fiber and buttress it with coaxial cable and/or wireless means that an ever-increasing percentage of Americans will have high-speed access. And the news will continue to come. For instance, last week The StarTribune reported that U.S. Internet unit USI Wireless will offer 1 Gbps services to 4,000 homes in Minneapolis.