Google Making Progress on Kansas City Project

Carl Weinschenk

Cable industry veterans will get a chuckle out of the fact that apparently one of the biggest issues facing Google as it makes final preparations for its ultra-fast network in Kansas City, Kan., concerns pole attachments. At the very least, it dominates a local piece on the project posted at the Kansas City Star website.

Google committed to the project almost a year ago. Choosing between more than 1,000 communities, it selected Kansas City for the first Google Fiber project. It will offer 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) service, which the story says is about 100 times faster than typical broadband today.

Pole attachments - as the name implies, where cables are attached to utility poles - have been a running topic and often a sore point in the relationships between municipalities and the cable and telephone industries for decades. In this case, Google had a decision to make:

Google had the choice of paying the normal fees for the same access as their potential Internet service competitors, or avoid the fees and take on added construction costs of operating in the electric supply space. Such an installation would have required using more specialized and highly paid linemen for the work, and likely costlier engineering work.

The piece says that the company is aiming lower and will use the same area populated by MSOs and telcos. Of course, in the long run, the importance of the project goes far beyond pole attachments. The prospect of a company that has its hands into just about everything in the world of telecom actually becoming a service provider is intriguing and raises a few questions - and perhaps a few concerns.

Network World reported that a beta version of the network reported download speeds of 150 Megabits per second (Mbps) and uploads of 90 Mbps. The project apparently is going international. It seems to be acting as something of a catalyst:

Google's fiber network has also inspired more than 29 universities to start up the new Gig.U initiative that aims to attract service providers to their communities to build out high-speed fiber networks that will deliver the same 1 Gbps connectivity that residents and businesses in Kansas City will soon enjoy.

The bottom line is that Google's emphasis on creating a sophisticated wired network is great news. The company is associated with cutting-edge mobility through Android. At the same time, it is clear that the future is not just wireless. Rather, it will be essentially an equal mix of wired and wireless networking. Seeing Google continue to meet its declared intention of putting its considerable muscle - financial, R&D and marketing - into what suddenly is the less glitzy of the two platforms is heartening.

The goal is to make high-speed connectivity available to homes, not just institutions such as universities and the military. Google, of course, expects to cash in in a variety of ways. Still, the company is to be commended.

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