The recently announced expansion of Google Fiber into another Kansas City suburb has gotten a lot of press, and rightfully so. Google Fiber is coming to Olathe, Kansas, which is a town of about 125,000 residents. It sits roughly 30 minutes outside of Kansas City. Most importantly, though, the move shows that Google wasn’t kidding when they said Fiber was not just an experiment, and they hope to expand elsewhere.
Google’s expansion should put the other major ISPs on notice. Google’s affordable fiber service has been a hit, and that runs contrary to what other providers have claimed about high speed access. Time Warner’s Chief Financial Officer Irene Esteves said that there was no demand for gigabit internet. If Google continues to grow, she and her company may soon have to eat those words.
America is lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of broadband speed. US consumers are also being pinned down with bandwidth caps. These bottlenecks are a major constraint on innovation, and risk putting the US at a disadvantage in the online environment.
The big providers have said for years that they lack the infrastructure to offer higher speeds and unlimited bandwidth. However, recent statements have revealed that this is not the case. Former FCC chairman Michael Powell, now president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, stated outright that bandwidth caps are financially driven and not a result of overcrowded networks.
Hard data caps are a particularly worrisome problem. Consumers are moving towards online video consumption in droves. The popularity of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Youtube, and iTunes grows each day. Even video games are moving in this direction as evidenced by Sony’s purchase of Gaikai. Cloud based services are also growing. All of these sectors depend on fast internet and lots of bandwidth, something the current providers seem loathe to provide.
If Google Fiber continues to expand, it could be a game changer. Google’s philosophy of “don’t be evil” is sorely needed in the internet provider field. The ISPs that currently dominate the market may not be evil, but they are certainly not looking out for the best interests of their consumers, or the US economy as a whole. A lack of competition in most areas has allowed them to gouge consumers, and Google Fiber may give the sector the kick in the pants it needs.