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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Filed Under: broadband, competition, google fiber
Companies: google


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 6:33am

    Pulling a netflix

    Thanks to in part to google fiber, municipal broadband has become a forward initiative. As it is now, parts of the US now know what it like to live in the twenty first century.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 8:15am

      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...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Adam Reynolds (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 6:45am

    Long term investment

    Assuming Google needs to diversify away from the ad revenue stream as quickly as possible, Google Fibre offers them a predictable and valuable long term revenue stream.

    It may have started as an experiment, but I can see a long term, huge disruption to the telecoms business.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 6:50am

    I have absolutely zero sympathy for any of the existing ISPs. If you can't compete, I am perfectly fine with you going extinct. If Google Fiber ever comes to my location I will happily switch and proceed to laugh at AT&T when they try to entice me back.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 6:56am

      Re:

      My otherwise excellent ISP sent me a letter saying I went over my cap and they were waving the fee one time, but next time it will cost. I didn't even know they had added caps. If a non-capped decent provider shows up I will wave bye one time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 6:51am

    The Future

    We can't build the 2020s technological systems on 1999s infrastructure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    fail, 30 Oct 2015 @ 6:55am

    Let's hope these incumbents are wearing their brown pants

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anomynuos Crowad, 30 Oct 2015 @ 6:58am

    "Disruptive", "revolution"! Shit just got real.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    andy, 30 Oct 2015 @ 7:01am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 8:48am

      Re: Shame on them...

      The cost of building fiber to 100% of the homes in America would probably cost upwards of $500 billion. If not more. Something tells me the government isn't going to decide Google needs money. Certainly not for a nationwide monopoly.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Karl Bode (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 8:52am

        Re: Re: Shame on them...

        Nope, the only way to fix the gaps is piecemeal, and municipal broadband and public/small to mid sized private partnerships play a huge role there...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Guy, 30 Oct 2015 @ 10:00pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Ven, 30 Oct 2015 @ 1:35pm

      Re: Shame on them...

      ... Umm, you do realize we don't have even crappy 1 MB/s broadband to 100% of homes in the US, right?

      If you said the 90% of homes in or near urban centers then maybe. But there are still areas of the US where there is no cable TV, and sometimes there aren't even phone lines.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 7:22am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      mcinsand, 30 Oct 2015 @ 7:36am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 8:02am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 8:16am

      Re: Google Fiber is Hype, nothing to worry about

      (satire head double take, applause)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 11:01am

      Re: Google Fiber is Hype, nothing to worry about

      Bahahahahahah

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    SirWired (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 7:36am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 11:00am

      Re: It's worked great here

      if you can afford the extra $20, i suggest you switch (even if you don't need it) so that your ISP feels the pain of competition.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      PRMan, 30 Oct 2015 @ 12:30pm

      Re: It's worked great here

      You may think it's related, but we have no competition in Southern California and Time Warner did the same thing here.

      I have 50 Mbps for $45 a month and I could get up to 300 Mbps.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 7:56am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 7:59am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 8:20am

    I wish they'd come to the northeast Southern Jersey , Philly area.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bri (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 9:13am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Niall (profile), 31 Oct 2015 @ 5:27am

      Re: How many synonyms an you think of?

      To be fair, they could have done some unspecified hardware or software upgrades in the meantime...

      Oh look - a herd of flying pigs!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 9:13am

    FYI

    The City of Phoenix recently granted Google a cable TV franchise. Within that application Google Fiber was mentioned as a potentially offered service.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Alareth, 30 Oct 2015 @ 9:40am

    As a Jacksonville resident all I can say is SQUEEEEEEE!!!!!!!! in the manliest way possible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    KansasCityGoRoyals, 30 Oct 2015 @ 9:51am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      mcinsand, 30 Oct 2015 @ 10:11am

      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 :(

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 11:22am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Ven, 30 Oct 2015 @ 1:58pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Derek Kerton (profile), 3 Nov 2015 @ 12:58pm

        Re: Re: The "Nexus" Strategy

        Yeah. The whole list is arbitrary and knocked out in 5 minutes.

        The main thrust being that they are happy just to push the market forward. If it makes money, they can double down. IF it doesn't...meh.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 31 Oct 2015 @ 5:50pm

      Re: The "Nexus" Strategy

      How can you put the self-driving car in the failure category when it's not even on the market yet?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Derek Kerton (profile), 3 Nov 2015 @ 12:55pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ken M, 30 Oct 2015 @ 11:36am

    fibers and internets

    how does google make fibers carry the internets?

    used to use juno and that made cents

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jim, 30 Oct 2015 @ 11:48am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 1:41pm

    Give me an ISP that aims to make money providing internet service, and doesn't have mass data collection as a motive, and I'll be happy.

    Until then, this is just as bad as Comcast and the rest, only for different reasons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 30 Oct 2015 @ 2:23pm

    I could seriously go for some of that "free" 5mbps package--hey, I'll gladly pay someone for their cheap infrastructure and usage which doesn't cost them anything anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TimothyAWiseman (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 3:06pm

    They need to start working in Las Vegas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Shane C (profile), 30 Oct 2015 @ 3:34pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Niall (profile), 31 Oct 2015 @ 5:31am

      Re: Jumping the gun, aren't we?

      Part of the point is to scare the incumbents into actually providing the service they have been bribed into and still failed to deliver.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2015 @ 7:17pm

    Except that their footprint in the cities they are in is TINY and grows sooo slowly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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