Google Goes ‘Big With A Gig’

This article was originally written for The Hartford Informer on February 18th, 2010.
In a huge announcement this week, Google announced last Thursday the development of a gigabit internet service provider (ISP). The California company and internet search giant is going to places it has never reached. Google provided more than 65 percent of the searches in the United States in 2009 and in recent years Google has moved from its Web based origins in the form of Gmail, Google Maps and Google Docs and has begun developing an operating system. Android, the company’s phone OS, was released in late 2008. Google also plans to release a computer OS, named Chrome later this year. This latest announcement is a clean departure from online and personal computing.
The idea is to gain the support of whole communities and provide this lightening fast Internet to them. In total, Google ISP looks to reach between 50,000 and 500,000 people in its first test run.
The real importance of this announcement is not that Google is now going to compete with the likes of Comcast, AT&T, Cablevision and Verizon but that Google will be providing a service capable of being 100 times faster than any single one of those companies can provide.
In recent years current ISP’s have been trying to boost their speed. Comcast announced it will rebrand its Internet service as Xfinity this week, but really this is still the slow network they’ve been running for years. Verizon is laying fiber optic lines around New York and New Jersey bringing FiOS to their consumers. Both services only provide up to 50 Mbps, and their only main motive is profit.
Google is not different and could technically charge anything for their new fiber optic service, given that companies like Comcast charge over $50 for under 20Mbps, Google’s gigabit would provide 50 times that. But Google’s mantra is “don’t be evil,” and (whether you believe it or not) this test isn’t about making money. This test is really about the physicality of providing 1Gbps to large numbers of people. The average internet speed for the United States is just 4.8Mbps, in Japan it’s 61Mbps. The kicker is that they both cost the same, around $15 a month for the average speed.
Seattle, Ontario County NY, Washington DC and the entire state of Hawaii have already expressed interest in “going big with a gig” with Google’s new service.
Google’s idea is to see the reality of providing amazing speeds at a low cost. With real-world cost analysis and implementation of the technology we can see just how viable high speed internet is.
It remains to be seen whether this will be a game changer or a massive failure. But with initial costs that could be in the billions, this is an experiment Google must be invested in for the long term.