With Another Major Expansion, Google Fiber's Looking Less Like An Adorable Experiment And More Like A Disruptive Broadband Revolution
from the demolishing-the-duopoly dept
When Google Fiber first launched in 2012, many analysts (myself included) believed that while cool, Google Fiber was little more than a clever PR experiment. Having cities throw themselves at Google for $70, gigabit connections created wonderful PR fodder in papers nationwide, in the process drawing attention to the lack of broadband competition and spurring incumbent ISPs to action. But Google was never going to really follow through on the promise of better competition, and would probably get bored in a few years. After all, it would cost way too much to actually deliver competition on any scale, right?
But as the list of looming Google Fiber markets grows, Google Fiber is looking less like an unserious experiment and more like a wholesale telecom revolution, albeit one that’s taking its time. Sure, Google Fiber is only available in portions of Provo, Austin and Kansas City now — but the company’s currently building networks in some major urban sprawl-scapes including Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Nashville, Atlanta, Raligh/Durham, and Charlotte. The company also recently unveiled (or is rumored to soon announce) expansions into Portland, San Diego, Irvine, Phoenix, San Jose, and Louisville.
This week, Google said it’s also working with Oklahoma City, Jacksonville and Tampa to pave the way for gigabit speeds sometime in the next few years. And whereas many incumbent ISPs and sector analysts used to laugh off Google Fiber as an empty threat (one called it “over-hyped like Ebola“), lately they’ve been changing their tune. A recent study by Bernstein Research noted that while Google Fiber only currently has an estimated 100,000 or so subscribers, it has real potential to be a concrete, disruptive force over the next five to ten years:
(Incumbent ISPs) should not get ?too complacent? in the face of those figures, (since) Google Fiber could nab between 40% to 50% market share in its areas, which could have a deeper impact if Google does decide to expand aggressively…Kirjner also speculated a scenario in which Google Fiber could deploy to 15 million to 20 million homes within six to eight years, which would represent a ?non-trivial commitment? that is ?far from impossible? considering Google?s means…Those results, the analyst said, ?reinforce our view that Google Fiber could generate attractive ROIs, that incumbents stand to lose significant market share where Fiber is deployed, and that Google?s continued expansion of Fiber?is a non-trivial possibility.”
In other words, in the eyes of many Google Fiber has gone from over-hyped paper tiger to a major, sustained threat to the incumbent duopoly logjam. And while Google could still very easily get bored and sell the entire project to a cadre of incompetents, the project’s jump from hobby to the major leagues is good news for anybody interested in an affordable, ultra-fast connection unsaddled by usage caps or obnoxious below the line fees. Between Google Fiber, municipal broadband, and ad hoc deployments by unlikely contributors like Dan Gilbert and Tucows’ Ting, we’re witnessing individuals and organizations tired of the lazy broadband incumbency actually reclaiming the country’s broadband future tooth and nail, one street at a time.