Easy to Poke Holes in Google Trial Balloon

Carl Weinschenk

The ongoing carrier wars feature the telcos, the cable companies and, increasingly, wireless operators. An interesting idea was floated in this InformationWeek piece: The story quotes the blog of a Google policy analyst who says that some organizations own their own last-mile connections and there is "no law of nature" preventing consumers from doing the same.

 

It's a breathtaking idea in its simplicity, the resistance it would get from the powers-that-be, and the complexity of actually carrying it out. Though of course it wouldn't happen this way, it's fun to think of somebody running down to Best Buy or Home Depot, throwing some glass in the back of the SUV, and hooking their house up to the nearest POP. ("Darn, I have to go back to the store. I forgot the optical network termination unit.")

 

What isn't so funny, but no less entertaining, is the growing war between carriers and content providers. Things are getting more complex, as companies such as Google become increasingly frustrated and concerned about their connection to customers. Such companies see inadequate infrastructure and plays for control by carriers as threats to at least the wired part of their futures.

 

Cerf and his pals at Google clearly have reason for concern. For one thing, the infrastructure that has been entrusted to these carriers is not making the grade. Light Reading reports that the United States has slipped a couple of notches in the latest rankings from the Fiber-to-the-Home Council. This is not good news, especially considering that it started in eighth place. At number 10, the U.S. is sandwiched between the People's Republic of China and broadband powerhouse Denmark (and behind Iceland, Slovenia and Norway).

 

To be fair, however, U.S. FTTH penetration rose to 2.9 percent from 2.3 percent at the end of last year. In addition to the highest profile players -- Verizon and its FiOS project and AT&T and U-verse -- there are about 600 smaller projects in the United States.


 

There also was a bit of news this week on both FiOS and U-verse. FiOS is upping its speeds and holding a press event to kick off its service in New York City, while U-Verse announced that it has passed the half-million subscriber mark.

 

That's all good, but hardly the overwhelming change for which Google is waiting. For one thing, half a million subscribers doesn't seem like too big a number for the second-largest fiber-based project in the country. In any case, Google is just as concerned about control of the pipe as it is about its size or how many homes and business link to it.

 

A surprising number of contentious issues can be seen through the prism of the battle for the broadband future. Everyone should follow it on the Internet, whether or not they hook up the fiber themselves.



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