In 2010, Google announced its Google Fiber project. This project would deliver a gigabit network to a chosen community. Kansas City was ultimately chosen for the tech company’s test run. Next week, Google Fiber finally goes lives.
A gigabit network is one that runs on fiber optics, and reaches download speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second. The average American only has download speeds of up to 4 megabits per second. This network will offer speeds over 100 times faster than the average speed, and it will be bi-directional.
Why is Google launching a fiber network? Experts see two possible reasons. Google itself has stated that it wants to see what people would do with a gigabit network connection. Given the company’s plethora of online content, particularly at video sharing website Youtube, this seems like a logical enough reason. Youtube has begun streaming movies and TV shows in the past few years, and faster network speeds would help the company grow this business.
Others speculate that the move is Google’s answer to attacks on network neutrality by the big internet providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. These companies complain about the price of upgrading and maintaining their network, and want to charge websites like Google extra money to allow customers fast access to its sites. This practice would violate the long held spirit of the internet, where all data traffic is treated equally. Google may be out to prove that fast networks can be built and maintained at reasonable prices.
If the latter is true, then Google is to be commended. The attacks on network neutrality by the big service providers threatens not just the internet, but the economy as a whole. Our economy is deeply connected to the internet now, and we can not afford to have internet service providers picking the winners and losers online. Discrimination of network traffic can not be allowed, or the open and free internet we have grown to love will be destroyed.