Google Remains Major Player in U.S. Broadband Strategy

Assumes simultaneous roles as facilitator, disruptor and competitor

US Broadband
President Obama Broadband.

Google Sets Broadband Goal at Gigabit Speeds with Fiber Deployments

If there is any one entity responsible for raising the broadband bar to include gigabit speeds a a standard, it would be Google.  No single company has ever assumed and embraced diverse roles such as facilitator, disruptor, and competitor - all at the same time.  While cable companies would blame Google for establishing an unrealistic and unreasonable speed standard, most savvy consumers understand the climbing trend over the last few years.

  As broadband availability increases and applications become more sophisticated consumer and commercial use continues to rise dramatically,

Number of Fiber Connected Homes in North America Increases by 13%: 22.6 million Homes Now Passed by Fiber Connections

Google's mission statement is stated simply enough - "Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful."

FCC Explains Rationale Behind Recent Broadband Decisions: Municipal broadband, increasing broadband speeds, and Title II regulation included

All of Google's initiatives fall under this broadly stated goal.  What isn't specifically mentioned in the mission statement, but is implicit in the execution of both organizing information and making it universally accessible is the synergy between the two.  In order to make information universally available to the world, broadband needs to be available to everyone.

  This is where Google's efforts, particularly during the last seven years, have been focused.

Google's foray into deploying broadband, instead of just providing information to users started with its fiber to the home municipal competition.  The notion of building networks capable of speeds faster than what many had any idea to do with became popular with Google's challenge to communities across the United States.

It started with an ambitiously creative marketing strategy and competition to offer very high speed Internet service to a winning community in the United States. More than 1100 communities around the country submitting equally creative and ambitious proposals which included public relations efforts and various publicity stunts. Kansas City ultimately won the honor, and Google has been connecting the city's residents to an ultra fast fiber connection with speeds of 1 gigabit - 100 times the speed of a typical broadband connection over the last few years.

Number of Fiber Connected Homes in North America Increases by 13%: 22.6 million Homes Now Passed by Fiber Connections

Google quickly followed the two Kansas City deployments with announcements of new networks in Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah.  Google's selection and planning process includes municipality concessions listed in a published "fiber-ready checklist," which include items which speed up the planning and construction process of the build. The fiber-ready checklist includes streamlined permitting, facilitated access to mapping data, and use of municipality controlled telecommunication assets such as utility poles, conduits, and water, sewer and gas lines.

Broadband Speed Table by Technology

Broadband Technologies: Not All Broadband is Created Equal

As a result of being selected as a Google Fiber city, Kansas City published a playbook listing goals and desired outcomes of the high-speed broadband network.  These included the following uses:

  • Accelerate innovation and civic outcomes
  • Propose and foster compelling economic, social and cultural innovations that would not be possible for the private or public sectors to achieve independently
  • Thoughtfully establish leadership positions for the Kansas City region — both in ideas and implementation — ahead of national and global markets
  • Identify and enable trans-sector impacts through focused and productive alignment of institutions, resources, users and technology
  • Monitor levels of broadband adoption in various geographic and socioeconomic segments of the community to inform public actions and investments.

    Gigabit Cities: Google's Advice to Hopefuls: Google executive offers advice to municipalities

    Since the original deployments were announced, Google subsequently announced plans to deploy fiber to the home in 34 new municipalities in eight different states: Arizona - Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, California - San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Georgia - Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, College Park, Decatur, East Point, Hapeville, Sandy Springs, Smyrna, North Carolina - Charlotte, Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Morrisville, Raleigh, Oregon - Portland, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Gresham, Lake Oswego, Tigard, Tennessee - Nashville-Davidson, Texas - San Antonio, Utah - Salt Lake City.

    FCC Chair Tom Wheeler Mentions Google at Congressional Hearing

    Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Tom Wheeler testified in Congress in 2014 during an Energy and Commerce Committee oversight hearing.  While much of his testimony was focused on the politically sensitive issue of net neutrality, Wheeler also spoke about the importance of effective broadband deployment policies as a way to break down barriers to expanded broadband access.  He spoke specifically about Google's approach to deploying fiber in the cities across the country:

    "Google has developed a checklist for cities that want to participate in their Google Fiber project of steps that can be taken to ensure easier access to existing infrastructure and to make construction speedier and more predictable,"

    FCC CAF to Boost Annual Revenues for Providers: ATT and CenturyLink will receive most of the federal funding

    Google Publishes Google Fiber Checklist for Cities

    Earlier that year Google published the checklist while announcing it was exploring the possibility of deploying fiber in 34 new cities across the country.  Google touted the fact that high speed broadband networks enabled communities to become technology and innovation hubs.  Rural communities could compete with rural counterparts, attracting new businesses and enabling existing ones to harness the power of high speed access to the Internet.

    FCC: 70% of Fixed Broadband Connections Meet Speed Threshold: Speed threshold significantly lower than most application requirements

    Chairman Wheeler's predecessor at the FCC, Julius Genachowski, described the potential of gigabit connectivity while announcing the agency's Gigabit City challenge:

    "At 1000 Mb per second, Google Fiber is 100 times faster than today’s average Internet, allowing you to get what you want instantaneously. You no longer have to wait on things buffering; everything will be ready to go when you are. At gigabit speeds, connections can handle multiple streams of large-format, high-definition content like online video calls, movies, and rich educational experiences. Networks cease to be hurdles to applications, so it no longer matters whether medical data, high-definition video, or online services are in the same building or miles away across the state.So whether you are video chatting, uploading family videos, or playing your favorite online games, all you need to do is click and you’re there."

    In addition to using the Google municipality checklist as an FCC model for broadband deployment, Chairman Wheeler also expressed his commitment to increasing broadband competition and supporting municipally-owned broadband networks.  The latter have been the issue of legislative hurdles in a number of states, as incumbent providers lobby legislatures to protect their service territories.


    Google Closer to Making Kansas City a High Speed Internet Portal

    According to Google VP Milo Medin, "Now that we've learned a lot from our Google Fiber to the Home projects in Kansas City, Austin and Provo, we want to help build more ultra-fast networks."

    Google Explores Unique Ways of Deploying Broadband to Overcome Challenges

    Project Loon is a research and development initiative being developed by Google specifically for delivery of broadband service in rural areas of the country.  Google uses high-altitude balloons to transmit a wireless signal to deliver broadband at speeds approaching mobile wireless technology.

    This is how Google describes the technology:

    "Project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather. They are carried around the Earth by winds and they can be steered by rising or descending to an altitude with winds moving in the desired direction. People connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal bounces from balloon to balloon, then to the global Internet back on Earth."

    Measuring Economic Impact of Broadband: Does Speed Matter? UK Report Challenges Benefits of Higher Broadband Speeds

    While many of the details are yet to be shared by the company, Michael Cassidy, the project engineer for the project, was optimistic that Project Loon would provide a way to provide broadband access in hard to reach areas:

    "Anyone with a smartphone anywhere in the world will be able to get Internet access,We're getting close to the point when we can bring the Internet to people around the world."

    Bill Introduced in Georgia Limits Municipal Broadband Networks: Providers want level playing field at the expense of underserved citizens

    The technology and balloons being used by Google have been tested in Australia, Latin America, and New Zealand, with partnerships with various providers in each country. While most of the trials are being conducted outside of the Unites States, Google has also been conducting field tests in California's Central Valley, which is close to the company's headquarters in Mountain View. 

    Benefits of Broadband: Why is broadband access so important?

    If Google succeeds in deploying Project Loon in the United States, users will be able to access the Internet using a wireless signal being transmitted from a balloon in the sky. Some analysts are speculating that this type of technology could also be used to deploy the system of drones and satellites the company is exploring. 

    Google's Affect on Broadband Provider Community

    In the course of deploying high-speed broadband in cities across the U.S., Google is not only adding to its own portfolio of assets, it is also increasing opportunities for other providers to expand their networks.  The company uses an open-network concept, which allows other carriers to use Google's fiber and conduits to connect to.  In addition, in places where other providers already have broadband networks, Google's impact on pricing and speeds is significant.  Consumer prices tend to decrease, and speeds typically increase in markets where Google plans to deploy.  In some cases, a simple announcement from Google is all it takes.