Yes, It Would Be Prohibitively Costly For Google To Offer Google Fiber Everywhere, But It Shouldn't Have To
from the think-outside-the-box dept
A bunch of folks have been sending over Business Insider’s coverage of a Goldman Sachs Report concerning Google Fiber, and how much it would cost to roll it out nationwide. The estimate from BI, which is what lots of people are quoting, is that it would cost $140 billion. From the quote presented in the article, it’s not clear if the Goldman Sachs report actually uses that number of not. The only number actually quoted is that it would cost about $70 billion to cover less than half, so I don’t know if the BI reporter is just extrapolating in a manner that seems ridiculous (if covering half the country is $70 billion, that does not mean covering the other half is also $70 billion — it doesn’t work that way):
Building out the infrastructure will be expensive. In his September 17 report Still Bullish on Cable, although not blind to the risks, Goldman Sachs Telco analyst Jason Armstrong noted that if Google devoted 25% of its $4.5bn annual capex to this project, it could equip 830K homes per year, or 0.7% of US households. As such, even a 50mn household build out, which would represent less than half of all US homes, could cost as much as $70bn. We note that Jason Armstrong estimates Verizon has spent roughly $15bn to date building out its FiOS fiber network covering an area of approximately 17mn homes.
Of course, even if we accept this number to be true — even though that seems unlikely to be the case — it seems to miss the point. Google has been pretty clear all along that the goal of the Google Fiber project was not to turn Google into a national broadband competitor, but to drive others to really up their game by showing what’s possible: super cheap, super fast broadband with friendly customer service.
And, while Google shied away from its initial promise to have its network open for other services to compete, it still seems like that might be a better way to offer such a broadband. That is, rather than dumping the expense entirely on one company, imagine if it were split up among a bunch of companies (or even individuals), with a promise of openness and competition at the service level, rather than at the infrastructure level. In effect, this is what is happening down in Australia, via government fiat, in which it’s building out a national fiber network, with plans to have it open for competition at the service level. That way, the costs of the infrastructure are spread out, but it opens up massive new opportunities for service providers if they provide good service.
The problem — and the reason such a thing is unlikely to move forward — is, once again, this insistence by companies that there’s more value in owning the pipe entirely, and keeping it locked up and scarce, even if it means less overall efficiency and less overall opportunity. A long term view would recognize that investing in the best network possible, but sharing those costs, and then letting the real competition happen at the service level, would benefit everyone. Instead, we end up with fighting over slow, limited and fragmented networks. It’s too bad.