Google Fiber: Tripping the Light Fantastic

Google Fiber is an innovative new bandwidth delivery service in Kansas City









Ahh there’s nothing quite like the smell of multiplexing in the morning.

The Internet is aflame with Google Fiber! Yes it’s a very big deal that Google is finally selling their network access to the public. In terms of who would make an ideal ISP, they’re not my first pick, but they’ve got some desirable attributes that the current carriers don’t possess.

For one thing, Google is pretty open. They publish a transparency report, bid a ton of money to try to make airwaves more open, and their slogan is “Don’t be Evil”. As I’ve said before, Google believes in Information Ecology, that is to say, that all information holds some value to someone. This belief system creates an environment where knowledge and data are sacred, but the flip side of that coin is the potential dragnet.

Google already knows a lot about you. More than you or I would probably care to admit. They’ve recently become partial to social, but their integration of social has been anything but smooth. The sort of forced integration of all of my Google profiles into one giant governing Privacy policy, one that covers everything from my phone calls, to my emails, and now to my internet access, is sort of scary. Taken with Eric Schmidt’s Stance on Privacy, this becomes a very scary world quite quickly.

In spite of these obvious negative qualities, Google is still a better ISP than any of the national carriers for one simple reason: Google’s goal is network utilization, whereas the traditional ISP model is based upon billing for unrealized services. The bigger your billing is, and the less you consume, the higher the telecom margin, but Google isn’t operating purely on the Telecom margin.

The reason Google has a fundamental advantage over their more traditional rivals, is that Google has a business in which Telecom is an infrastructure component. Google’s grand entrance into the Telecom market isn’t so much about consumer freedom as it is about driving the pace of access proliferation forward. The faster global access speeds are, the faster Google prints money.

In short, Google’s the perfect ISP because they have an investment in you actually using your Internet connection, but I fear that this play is similar to their $4.6Billion bid for airwaves: A shot across the bow intended to incite industry action, but not a revolution. Google’s intention is to increase global access speed. Whether they do so by rolling out Google Fiber nationwide, or by creating an environment where incumbent operators are forced to innovate, matters not.

TL;DR: Google is a great ISP, but they don’t want to be a carrier; they want to drive innovation.