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.

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Comments on “With Another Major Expansion, Google Fiber's Looking Less Like An Adorable Experiment And More Like A Disruptive Broadband Revolution”

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45 Comments
Karl Bode (profile) says:

Re: Pulling a netflix

I think Google Fiber’s emphasis on working WITH communities, instead of seeing them as adversaries and telling them to go fuck themselves, has been pretty huge. I watched for fifteen years as nobody gave a damn that state legislatures were passing protectionist laws keeping incumbents from competing. Google’s entry mysteriously suddenly woke everybody up this stuff and now we’re finally seeing traction on the subject…

andy says:

Shame on them...

the incumbents are likely seeing the end of their gravy train, if the government decides that google needs government funding and goes into an agreement with them to have fibre going to every home i am sure google would jump at the opportunity. If they were given just half of what the incumbents have had in funding they would be able to fit fibre to 100% of homes in america wherever they are and probably be able to do it within the next ten years or even sooner if they could get authorisation to force others to sell them black fibre.

Guy says:

Re: Re: Shame on them...

You do know various ISPs have been given TRILLIONS by the government to build up our infrastructure and have wasted it, among other things, on trips to Disney Land and hookers, right? That the FCC actually had to crack down on the number of times these funds were blown on hookers?

And honestly, what would be the downside to Google having a monopoly, when our current major ISP players are a monopoly in the areas they serve that don’t have Google? At least we have a much higher standard of service to play with.

DannyB (profile) says:

Google Fiber is Hype, nothing to worry about

Just like the supposed phenomena of Cord Cutting.

Neither will ever have any effect on the bottom line of the securely entrenched, large (“bloated”), careful (“inefficient”) ISPs.

People will know it is in their best interests to stick with the safe ISPs which protect you by carefully exercising Editorial Control over the Internet that you see (unlike Google which does not seem to exercise editorial discretion of any kind).

People will realize how valuable a service their existing ISPs perform by exercising ‘network management’ to throttle or outright block things which use excessive network bandwidth. That is, anything using more than three or four times dial up speeds, which is necessary for fantastic email and interactive chat response times.

Another valuable service many ISPs offer you (for free, built into the cost of your basic monthly bill), is that they will recognize non-existing domain names, make the assumption that your traffic is to port 80 for a web browser (after all, what other internet application would anyone use?), and conveniently direct you to a page loaded with advertisements related to what they think the domain name might be related to.

And if that is not enough, your existing ISPs perform another basic ‘service’ for you (again, that’s what you’re paying for when you ask why your monthly bill is so high!), is that they find craptacular special offers for you and automatically inject them into web pages you visit! Now that’s convenience! Now some people might complain that those injected ads could interfere with the scripts of other ad networks used by the website you visited. Or that the injected scripts interfere with the scripts that implement the very functionality of the website you visited. But those complainers just don’t understand business and nothing will make those few troublemakers happy.

And, your existing ISP probably offers you a small number of free email accounts (included in your basic bill), and additional email accounts for a ‘small’ fee. That way your email history can be scanned by your ISP to understand your interests better. But if Google does this, it is evil. And those email accounts will keep you tied to your ISP forever, it’s called loyalty.

And your ISP understands that EVERYONE runs Microsoft Windows and that an EXE which installs unspecified software onto your computer can be a basic requirement to install your internet connection. Google just doesn’t get this.

Finally, unlike the Hollywood loving ISP you probably already have, big Evil Google is the source of all evil that exists on the internet.

So it seems that ISPs have nothing to fear.

After all toy microcomputers weren’t a threat to IBM’s big, beautiful mainframes.

Carry on. Nothing to see here. Just a bunch of hype by Google to create confusion.

mcinsand (profile) says:

Re: Google Fiber is Hype, nothing to worry about

applause

Very well done, very well, indeed.

My favorite and least-favorite sentence is, however:

>>After all toy microcomputers weren’t a threat to IBM’s
>>big, beautiful mainframes.

The ‘toys’ quickly took over, and they are now more than capable of running powerful OS’s that used to cost $400-500/license back in the day of the 80386. Sadly, that power is still generally wasted on running an OS that is still more suited to the level of a toy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Google Fiber is Hype, nothing to worry about

applause cheers whistles

Also:

Your call is very important to us. It will be answered in the order received. Please stand by to talk to a representative who does not speak your language and will read from a script instead of actually trying to understand and solve your problem. Also we will use this opportunity to try to upsell you services you neither need nor want. We will also make unauthorized random changes to your account and add undocumented service fees. Have a nice day.

SirWired (profile) says:

It's worked great here

I live in the RDU area. While Google Fiber has yet to hook up a single house, TWC suddenly felt inspired to triple (or more) the speeds for anybody not running the absolute cheapest internet plans. They upgraded me from “Standard” to “Extreme” for the same $50 (all-in; I own my modem) and not even a phone call, and my speeds went from 15/1 to 50/6.

Google at $70 for 1Gb would be awful tempting, but because of the miracle of competition, my 50/6 for $20 less is more than adequate for my needs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Define "currently building" in number of houses connected per day.

You don’t provide a reference for a single fact above. Where do you get the 100,000 figure?

Just another shilling puff piece on what could happen in fantazy Google-land. This one is remarkable for the hedges and admissions, though.

It may be “Looking Less Like An Adorable Experiment” but STILL IS.

Karl Bode (profile) says:

Re: Define "currently building" in number of houses connected per day.

“Where do you get the 100,000 figure?”

The number is plucked directly from a Sanford Bernstein research note based on extensive surveys.

http://www.multichannel.com/news/distribution/study-market-too-dismissive-google-fiber-s-potential/394356

They estimate about 427,000 homes, and 96,000 business locations passed with fiber, and between 100,000 and 120,000 served.

Figure there’s roughly a dozen builds underway in large cities like Atlanta and San Antonio, and the math starts to speak for itself. This is no longer a tiny little experiment.

Bri (profile) says:

How many synonyms an you think of?

Called my ISP last night. For the past few weeks, our internet has been fine until 10pm almost in the dot, where it would go from 50Mbps to maybe 5Mbps, sometimes 0.9 or just 0. The nice lady on the phone had us speed test, and when the speeds we told her were confirmed she discovered a ” mismatch” in the system between the speeds we were paying for and what the system was giving us. When asked about why this only happened after 10, we were told sometimes the system shows different speeds and needs to be corrected. She did everything possible to avoid saying we were being throttled at peak hours. Now our speeds are up to 66 Mbps, and we were told when we signed up it was not physically possible for it to go over 50. Hmmmm.

KansasCityGoRoyals says:

KC GooglyFibre

DannyB – words much? – I didn’t even read ya.

I’m getting data using the GoogleFiber free version here in KC, excellent customer service and fast response. And the free version!
And yes, some of us ARE cutting the cord.
Suddenly, my old provider wants to provide to me at a much lower cost.

mcinsand (profile) says:

Re: KC GooglyFibre

KCGR,

Go back and read DannyB’s entire post carefully. It’s sly, it’s witty, and it is a great read. Sure, it starts out much like a troll post, but it wraps up so clearly that he didn’t need to add ‘/sarc.’

Enjoy your Google Fiber where you are. Sadly, it’s coming one hour east of me and an hour and a half south, but Greensboro is ignored, for now 🙁

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

The "Nexus" Strategy

This illustrates the beauty of Google’s “Nexus” strategy. They have some decent ideas, some moonshots, and some leading initiatives, they invest in them, labeling it as “Beta”.

1) If it fails completely, fine, lessons learned, move on.
Examples:
Dodgeball
Grand Central (Google Voice)
Plus
Hangouts (messenger)
Google Wallet (but spawned Android Pay)
Picasa

2) If it fails as a business, but illustrates what can be done, then they’ve pushed the other vendors forward in ways that strategically benefit Google.
Examples:
Self-driving car
early Nexus phone models
Nexus tablets

3) If it turns out to be ROI positive from a cash perspective, Or a huge strategic win, they can scale it up at the pace they choose, and diversify while earning more total profit.
Examples:
Advertising on search results
Chrome Browser
A mobile OS called Android
Maps
Gmail
recent Nexus phones models
Google Fiber
Voice recognition

4) Examples that haven’t yet been classified as 1-3
Google Project Loon
Google Fi MVNO
home Wifi Hub
in car Android Auto
Android Pay
Goggles, Cardboard

The key to the Nexus strategy is that even when you fail, you push others to match your offerings, you teach consumers what they could demand from other vendors, and you pull other companies to deliver faster, or come out of “stealth” mode.

Ven says:

Re: The "Nexus" Strategy

You could really do with another group, failed in name, but lives on in tech.

Google’s Voice recognition only exists at the state it is because of Grand Central/Google Voice was used to do untold voice to text transcriptions of voice mail.

Almost all of the shared editing features in the Google drive suite came from Wave.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: The "Nexus" Strategy

Yeah. Kinda arbitrary. But I put it there because of the “pushed other vendors forward in a way that benefits google.”

Think about it. They’ve been doing that Self-driving car research for a long time. Any cars you can buy yet? No, so kinda a failed biz. OTOH, Tesla, Cadillac, Audi, Volvo have all done a lot of work to keep up with what Google has evangelized.

But to Google’s benefit, Android Auto is successful. And that product basks in the halo effect of the self drive cars. Tesla has outsourced basemap data to Google, as well as voice recog. Google seems better positioned to sell their expertise than to sell a car, for now.

BTW, I rode in a Google Self-drive Lexus, and it was a let-down. I saw their 2012 video in which a blind man goes shopping in a car around town on urban streets. Their fleet of Lexii are nothing like that video. When I rode, in 2014, the car was ONLY capable of freeway driving, and ONLY could keep its lane. No lane changes, no collision avoidance to left/right. Only stop and go within a lane. Now, that’s pretty cool, but a hell of a letdown after the blind guy video.

I have an auto pilot Tesla, and that’s more impressive because it does basically the same thing as the Google Lexus, adds lane changing, AND it is commercially available. Tesla did not over-promise and under-deliver.

Google is now working on urban driving, which is far more complicated. I hope they do great things.

jim says:

Re:

But, I actually like the Google internet. But I’m used too end of the line from att and twc. Until google, latency was not a buzzword. It was a fact of life. Slow speed, clogged channels for direct line, WiFi was worse. Try and watch shows on the internet, impossible.. Or two hour download for a thirty minute show, or updates had to be saved on the main set and crossplanted..or to update an other OS, damn had to plan for overnights, Now, seconds, and burn the OS DVD, watch interviews in real time. And in my neighborhood, they bypassed unsigned homes, hooked up a school after I mentioned to the school free was available. Underground, super fast,upper and lower band, damn fine Sherlock.

Shane C (profile) says:

Jumping the gun, aren't we?

So Google Fiber is looking like a “disruption to the present broadband market?” That is great marketing speak. Unfortunately the truth is more dismal.

Speaking for here in Austin, Google Fiber is running an estimated 18 months behind schedule. And as far as I know, they still haven’t hooked up customer #1 yet. Being an Austin resident, residing slightly outside one of the first three “fiber-hoods” they designated, I don’t expect to see Google Fiber for at least two years. If not five.

I don’t know, maybe all of this may be normal for rolling out a large fiber network, in a sprawling city. However, to me, it’s looking like Google Fiber is having issues. If their roll out rate remains the same in other towns, any stories right now about “how disruptive they are,” are a good decade too early.

Shane

I have a Google Fiber t-shirt, Google Fiber shopping bags, Google Fiber pens, Google Fiber water bottles. The only thing I don’t have? Google Fiber.

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