Google and the City of Austin are hosting a shindig. Could Austin be getting a gigabit network?


Will Austin be the next city to get a gigabit network?

The City of Austin and Google are hosting an event next Tuesday on April 9, and sources in the city suspect it is related to a broadband announcement. As a resident whether or not we are getting Google Fiber is my first and most pressing question, but if this is a gigabit announcement, it has big ramifications beyond my personal broadband speeds.

The invitation reads:

You are a leader here in Austin. Every day, your work and contributions help make our community better and stronger. That’s why we want you to be one of the first to hear about something new coming to Austin. Please join Google and the City of Austin for an announcement on Tuesday.

It’s possible that Google’s invite is nothing more than an invitation to business leaders to hear about a new office or a pilot program for a Google service such as same-day delivery. However, Google has said that it is thinking about deploying other gigabit networks outside of the one it is turning on in Kansas City. And Austin was pretty high up in the running with regards to the initial competition between cities to get Google’s fiber network. With a tech savvy population, a city-owned utility that might be able to offer concessions when it comes to stringing fiber along telephone poles and business and a government willing to work with Google, Austin has many of the elements that might draw Google.

Google declined to comment for this story.

At the launch of Google Fiber last summer in Kansas City, Google’s Milo Medin was clear in his frustration with how access speeds and costs were not keeping up with computing speeds and costs. As the man who helped build the first cable broadband business back when everyone said DSL speeds would suffice, he’s well aware that if you give people faster speeds they will use them. And that’s the stated rationale for Google to get into the broadband business — it wants to see what people will do with a gigabit connection.

But if Google really wants to put pressure on incumbents, perhaps rolling out fiber in one place isn’t enough?

Equipment, communities and even developers aren’t ready to support gigabit speeds yet, but as more places get them, companies will develop products and services that can handle those with gigabit connections. Maybe Google is ready to invest more dollars into broadband networks to drive demand. After all it can’t see what people will do with a gig if people can’t actually find ways to use it — and if people don’t have other gigabit communities to share their gigabit applications with.

So I’m hoping that the Google announcement next Tuesday in Austin is about a gigabit network for the Texas capital. Any expansion of Google’s network is a benefit not just to the cities that get it, but it also places pressure on incumbents to invest in upgrading their own networks. Maybe we can get to gigabit networks in all 50 states. Or even better — gigabit networks in every area where the population densities let the economics make sense.

Updated at 4:21 pm: Austin’s ABC affiliate KVUE is reporting that it has confirmed Google Fiber is coming to Austin.

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