Is Google Good for Gigabit?
In the world of gigabit services, everybody name-checks Google.
It happened this week in a conversation with Tucows CEO Elliot Noss, who through his Ting subsidiary has acquired a regional ISP and declared its intentions to be a gigabit services provider. Noss told me he thinks Google Fiber Inc. 's gigabit strategy is the only one that's meaningful at this point, and Tucows appears to have designs on emulating Google's approach to a certain degree. (See Tucows Buys Into Gigabit Services.)
It happened also in a recent conversation with Grande Communications SVP and GM Matt Rohre, who called Google Fiber "a wakeup call" and said Grande accelerated its plans to upgrade its Austin-area network to gigabit speeds because it wasn't about to get beaten to the punch by Google. (See Grande Unfazed in Crowded Gigabit Market.)
Google Fiber didn't spawn the Gigabit Cities phenomenon -- that distinction belongs to the City of Chattanooga, Tenn. and its municipally owned utility, EPB Fiber Optics -- but it is arguably the entity that put the mass-scale concept in the consciousness of the nationwide public. Every subsequent effort by a telecom or cable operator, a utility or any other entity rolling out a gigabit network or upgrading a system to provide gigabit-level service gets compared in one way or another back to Google.
Does any of that make Google the hands-down leader in this race? By no means. Google has bulk and brand equity and muscle (some of which it reportedly uses to strong-arm potential Gigabit Cities into giving it what it wants), but so far it hasn't made a strong showing at being a service provider. Google Fiber is available in parts of Kansas City, Austin and Provo, Utah, but this week the company announced deployment delays for its next nine metro targets, according to the Kansas City Business Journal. The areas now reportedly on hold are Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte in North Carolina, Atlanta, San Antonio, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Portland, Ore., and San Jose, Calif.
Don't get me wrong -- I think Google is good for the Gigabit Cities movement overall. But I also think the telecom and cable operators across the country that are upgrading their networks and incrementally adding gigabit capabilities are good for it. I think the entry-by-acquisition strategy of entities like Tucows is good for it. I think the public/private partnerships between municipalities and network operators are good for it. And I think the launch of a gigabit network by the municipally owned utility I visited yesterday in Sebewaing, Mich., population 1,700 -- which now holds the distinction of being both the epicenter of sugar beet processing and "Michigan's First Gigabit Village" -- is good for it. (Watch for more on that one soon.)
I'm willing to bet that there are still more unique business models and methods of entry into this services sector that we have yet to see. Is Google good for gigabit? Maybe. Time will tell. But so far, the gigabit services sector is one where Google's dominance is by no means a foregone conclusion.
— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, Light Reading