Tag: "google"

Posted September 10, 2012 by lgonzalez

“I’m concerned that the digital divide” — the gap between electronic haves and have-nots — “will be exacerbated by the fact that you’ll have extremely fast Internet in some neighborhoods while people in neighborhoods with fewer resources will be left even further behind,” said Christopher Barnickel, an assistant director at the Kansas City, Kan., Public Library.

Christopher Barnickel, speaking with Scott Canon of the Kansas City Star, echoed the growing concerns of many in Kansas City. The Google fiber initiative, meant to offer the fastest broadband, may leave many behind. Google is connecting neighborhoods that met a minimum threshold for service, creating concern that low-income neighborhoods will not meet that threshold. Of the 202 possible neighborhoods, 22 will not be connected.

We discussed in a previous post how Google is in the unique position of being able to offer their gigabit service for such a low price. But one of the reasons they make it work is by building only in areas where people are ready to sign up today. Their agreement with the City is very clear that they do not have to serve everyone.

Google's Kansas City preregistration just ended. But Canon's words from 2 weeks ago remain important: 

Two weeks remain for dozens of neighborhoods to sign up enough potential customers to qualify for Google’s service before a Sept. 9 deadline. But many neighborhoods — chiefly the least prosperous pockets of the metro area — remain far behind the pace needed to hit the Google-established thresholds of customer penetration.

That means many of the free connections Google agreed to make to public buildings, library branches and community centers won’t happen.

At that time, the map was fairly divided among income lines. 

West of Troost Avenue, the map is mostly green, indicating neighborhoods with plenty of eager customers. East of Troost, pre-registrations...

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Posted August 19, 2012 by christopher

Milo Medin, the VP of Access Services at Google (responsible for the Kansas City deployment) gave a 40 minute presentation discussing important changes in the Internet. We should be moving from an age of scarcity to abundance, if the big cable companies will stop hindering that change. The slides from his presentation are available here.

Posted August 17, 2012 by christopher

A Business Journal story yesterday reveals that Time Warner Cable is adding 81 jobs in Kansas City, an increase of 9% over its present area workforce:

The company, which currently employs about 900 locally, wants to fill customer service, finance, sales and other positions.

These are the jobs that result from competition - which does not exist when the providers a limited to a complacent duopoly comprised of a single cable company and a single telephone company. This is one of the way that community networks create jobs.

Community Networks create traditional jobs to offer their own services (and a multiplier effect by using local accounting, local marketing, and other services). But they also create more revenue for local papers (advertising) and job opportunities with rival companies that suddenly need to fight for subscribers.

On a different track, Light Reading says it has a copy of Google's franchise with the city and notes that Google is under no obligation to serve everyone in the city. However, Karl Bode rightly notes that it was the state legislature in Kansas, flush with AT&T campaign contributions, that revoked the authority of local governments to require cable providers to serve everyone.

Presently, 14 "fiberhoods" in Kansas and 49 in Missouri have met the registration goals and will be among the first served. Google will build to any fiberhood that meets the minimum threshold of interest.

One cannot blame Google then for only building where they will profit. In fact, this is what one would expect any rational profit-maximizing company to do. It is a failure of governance to require that everyone have access to an essential infrastructure. And we know what causes these failures of governance - systematic legalized bribery in our campaign finance system.

Light Reading does note that the franchise is far more generous to Google than overbuilders can typically negotiate. This is a result of Google offering such a unique product. Local leaders decided to effectively subsidize Google's network with favorable terms in the right-of-way, including making inspections as quick and painless as...

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Posted July 30, 2012 by christopher

In the excitement around Google's unveiling of the $70 gigabit broadband connection in Kansas City, some may be wondering how it is that Google can offer a gigabit for moderately more than what most of us pay for far slower cable broadband connections.

On one side of the equation is the fact that big cable companies (Time Warner Cable, Comcast, etc.) have long been ripping off consumers by pricing their services far above cost -- something they can easily do because they face so little competition. But the more interesting side of the equation is how Google can make its gigabit price so low.

Recall that Chattanooga made major waves with its gigabit service, priced then at the rock-bottom rate of $350/month. A gigabit is not available in many communities and where it is available, the price is often over $10,000 per month. We published an in-depth case study of their approach a few months ago.

But, as Milo Medin -- the head of the Google Fiber project -- is fond of saying, "No one moves bits cheaper than Google." Google has built an incredible worldwide fiber optic network. Let's call this lessons 1 and 2.

Lesson 1: Google built its own network. It isn't leasing connections or services from big telecommunications companies. Building your own network gives you more control -- both of technology and pricing.

Lesson 2: Google uses fiber-optics. These connections are reliable and have the highest capacity of any communications medium. The homes in Kansas City are connected via fiber whereas Time Warner Cable, CenturyLink, and others continue to rely on last-generation technologies because they are delaying investment in modern technology to boost their profits.

EPB Installs Fiber Cables in Chattanooga

Others have already followed these lessons but are not able to offer their gig for such a low prices. To understand why, let's start with some basics. I'm hypothetically starting Anytown Fiber Net in my neighborhood and I want to offer a gig. Whenever any of my Anytown subscribers want to transfer files amongst themselves, the operating cost...

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Posted July 26, 2012 by christopher

Google Fiber is unveiled. And it sucks to be Time Warner Cable right now. But they already knew that.

Google is offering 3 packages in Kansas City - a gigabit Internet connection for $70/month, a TV + Gigabit Internet connection for $120/month, and a free Internet tier of 5/1Mbps (subject to a one time $300 connect cost). The first two packages also have the $300 connect fee but it is waived with a contract.

The details are available via DSL Reports and The Verge. There are several interesting enticements along with the connectivity.

Plans and pricing is here. I'm surprised at the number of television channels that are available on that package. Notable channels missing include Disney and ESPN, probably because ABC was trying to rake Google over the coals on pricing.

Neighborhoods will be competing to get enough presubscriptions to get connected (at $10 per potential subscriber). It will be interesting to see how this goes - the approach makes sense from a business perspective but could result in a patchwork of neighborhoods lacking access.

Google Fiber

In short, this will be interesting to watch. How will Time Warner Cable respond? How enthusiastic will ordinary people be? Google's marketing talent is considerably more advanced than that of the local governments and small companies (Sonic.net) that first blazed this trail. Speaking of which, I have not yet seen how other service providers will be able to use this network, if at all.

The free 5/1 connection is interesting. For a massive company like Google, providing hundreds or thousands of 5/1 connections essentially has zero cost. This is also true of Comcast and CenturyLink, which is why they are profitable on those $10/month low-income packages.

This is not a Google experiment. Those running this project are expected to earn a profit. How Google chooses to calculate that, we do not know.

Our biggest fear with this project is that we will see communities looking to Google to...

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Posted November 3, 2011 by christopher

Update: A contact at Google cast doubt on whether the call below was made -- but also reiterated that Google is on the record opposing state laws like that in Colorado that take authority away from communities.  

We have learned that Google called Longmont Power to congratulate them on regaining their authority via the successful referendum.  Apparently, Longmont was a top contender for the Google Gigabit project but Google was unable to determine whether Longmont had the authority to work with them due to the anti-competitive 2005 Qwest law.  

Presumably this places Longmont back on the list of places Google may try to build a network depending on the outcome in Kansas City.  

This is yet another example of why state restrictions on local broadband authority is entirely counter-productive to spurring broadband investment.  We previously speculated that Texas law prevented Austin from being Google's partner.

States: STOP taking broadband authority away from communities. Local authority is essential for investment in next-generation networks.  Communities: make sure you are making smart partnerships!  Don't just jump at anyone pretending to offer a free lunch.  

Posted July 25, 2011 by christopher

Sandy, a growing community of about 10,000 outside Portland in Oregon, is now building a FTTH network to expand on their successes offering city-run wireless broadband in 2003. They've done the whole wireless thing for 8 years but understand the future is high capacity, high reliability connections.

They are starting with a pilot program that seized on energy created by Google's gigabit initiative -- they held a "Why Wait for Google?" contest that asked neighborhoods to show their potential interest in a fiber-optic network.

When the Cascadia Village and Bornstedt Village won the contest, they were asked how they wanted to be involved:

What happens now? This is a pilot program, so we’re taking it step-by-step. We want the residents and property owners in Cascadia/Bornstedt Villages to be partners with us in making decisions on how this service will work. And we want it to be democratic: whatever we do, it will only be with the support of the majority of the residents and property owners who get involved.

The first thing we need to know is: how would you like to be involved? We have a lot of options, depending on your level of interest, and how busy your life is. On one end of the spectrum is simply asking us to keep you informed through e-mail or letters, and at the other end is your active participation (over a course of several meetings) in the detailed planning for the implementation of this pilot project. (Note: in the case of rental properties, we encourage both the landlord and the tenant to stay involved, and we have tried to mail this letter to both, based on available records).

This is a far cry from the massive cable and telco approach of "you will get what we give you when we offer it on the terms we decide."

SandyNet Logo

SandyNet is going to continue providing access to the Internet, but according to the FAQ, they will operate the network on an open access basis, encouraging independent service...

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Posted April 20, 2011 by christopher

Google's Gigabit Chief, Milo Medin (actual title: VP for Access Services), told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the FCC takes too long to make decisions, causing uncertainty for a variety of companies and slowing innovation.

But more interestingly, he advocated that federal and state governments stop making it hard for local communities to build their own broadband networks.

Medin also advocated for a policy loathed by some parts of the cable industry: municipal broadband.

"Localities know more about what works for their communities than state governments or the federal government do. In the end, we feel that while this is probably not the right choice in many cases, it is something that should not be prohibited," he said.

Allowing communities to address their own broadband needs could help extend broadband to rural areas, according to Medin.

We have been offering in-depth coverage of Time Warner Cable's efforts to strip communities of that authority in North Carolina as well as other issues around preemption.

Medin's statement echoes that of the FCC National Broadband Plan: "Congress should make clear that Tribal, state, regional and local governments can build broadband networks." This recommendation was recently Reiterated by FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn:

I recently learned that several state legislatures are considering bills that are contrary to the deployment objectives of the Broadband Plan. For example, in North Carolina, the state legislature is currently evaluating legislation entitled ‘Level Playing Field/Local Government Competition.’ Last week the North Carolina House passed the bill, and it currently awaits consideration in the Senate. This piece of legislation certainly sounds goal-worthy, an innocuous proposition, but do not let the title fool you. This measure, if enacted, will not only fail to level the playing field; it will discourage municipal governments from addressing deployment in communities where the private...

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Posted April 5, 2011 by christopher

Opponents of public ownership like to claim that publicly owned broadband is somehow hostile to business -- this is a a major Time Warner Cable talking point in North Carolina. The reality is that community networks are incredibly biased in favor of local businesses. Most community fiber networks resulted out of economic development needs, when public leaders realize the fast, reliable, and affordable access to the Internet is a key to attracting businesses (and that massive absentee incumbents rarely care to invest enough to attract those businesses).

Unfortunately, the argument resonates among a public that rarely remembers the U.S. economy was built on key public infrastructure investments -- from roads and highways to water works to universal electrification, if the public didn't own the infrastructure outright, it attempted to regulate in the public interest. And though regulators are frequently captured by those they regulate, the outcome is still better than allowing unaccountable electrical trusts to arbitrarily decide how much to gouge their customers.

When Google was search for a community partner in building its gigabit network, it was not shy about public ownership -- we now know that a key factor in the decision was Kansas City's publicly owned electrical company. Being owned by the City allowed Google a single point of contact and an assurance that they could all work together to build the network.

Surveying businesses in three early FTTH communities revealed dramatic savings:

In terms of fiber-enabled cost savings, 120 businesses in Bristol reported an average of $2,951 in savings per year, while, in Reedsburg, 33 cited annual cost savings averaging $20,682. Twenty Jackson businesses reported cost impacts due to fiber, with one large organization reporting a total of $3 million in savings. The other 19 Jackson respondents reported a net average cost increase of $3,150 per organization.

Make no mistake, public ownership of infrastructure is not anti-business, it is pro-business. There are a handful of businesses that benefit tremendously when they control infrastructure -- but it comes...

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Posted April 1, 2011 by christopher

In all of the hubbub around Google's Gigabit project announcement of Kansas City, Kansas, Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOm put up a fascinating post:

Chip Rosenthal headed the grass roots effort to bring Google’s gigabit fiber network to Austin, and he says the Texas capital was on the short list of cities that received a site visit and were in the final rounds. Unfortunately for Austin (and me since I’d be happy to plug into a fiber-to-the-home network) Google passed over the city and chose Kansas City, Kan. instead. Rosenthal, who is one of seven commissioners on the City of Austin’s Technology and Telecommunications Commission (a strictly advisory body), thinks it’s because Texas is one of four states that forbids municipalities from getting involved in building networks.

I frequently said that if I were at Google, I would not partner with a community in a state that has decided to limit local authority to make broadband investments. We do not know for sure what role these laws played, but it is interesting that Kansas City, Missouri, has much less freedom to build telecommunications networks than does Kansas City, Kansas.

From everything we know, this network will owned and operated by Google - which means we do not consider community broadband. Though we salute Google's approach of open access (allowing independent ISPs to use the network), the future of the network is tied to Google, not the community in which it operates. Our hope is that this network helps to prove the model of open access networks, making it more feasible for communities around the country to build their own such networks much as they build the roads on which modern communities depend.

And in the meantime, it is really, really dumb policy to take the choice of whether to build a community network out of the hands of the community.

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