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Summary:

Google Fiber will come to Austin, Texas, making it the second city to get the search giant’s gigabit network. Here’s why you should be as excited as I am.

austingoog

I was so excited by the prospect that my newly built home in Austin, Texas might get Google Fiber’s gigabit service, that I couldn’t sleep last night.

I felt like kid the night before Christmas, running over all the possibilities in my head and generally waking my husband up every few minutes to exclaim ridiculous things like, “This means our bandwidth won’t fluctuate when we’re watching Hulu at night!” or “I bet we could build some kind of video related IM, so I could be in the kitchen and ping you at work. It would just be always on! Hell, it might be streamed at the new higher than high-def, 4K standard or better if we’re doing gigabit service. OMG 4K!”

It’s no longer a question: Google is bringing its Google Fiber network to Austin. I’ve confirmed it with sources and the brief publication of a post in the middle of the night by Google should assuage anyone else’s doubts. While I have no idea how far Google plans to extend its network, if it plans to model the roll out on Kansas City’s build out I just have to get my neighbors as excited about a gigabit as I am.

LGs 4K TV. Try to get that past your bandwidth cap.

LGs 4K TV. Try to get that past your bandwidth cap.

My husband’s willingness to humor my gigabit suggestions became less enthusiastic after midnight, but he pointed out what many people are no doubt thinking, “We won’t have to deal with Time Warner Cable anymore.” As a customer of Time Warner’s business service, he has had several bitter experiences. On the residential side I’ve been miffed by the price hikes (I’m paying $70 for 30/5 service) but content with the service. But as I sit here writing this post while streaming music via my Sonos and while my child watches Netflix, I’m well aware that even if the executives at Time Warner Cable may say that consumers don’t want a gig, I do.

And you should too. Heck, in Kansas City I’d pay the same price for a gig as I do now for something 30 times slower.

Broadband is making your life more fun. And better.

Broadband has undoubtedly made our lives better in countless small and large ways. Every time someone sends you a goofy YouTube video or animated GIF you’re taking advantage of the ever-increasing speeds ISPs have delivered. When I started accessing the web via dial-up modem, an animated GIF stopped a web page for loading for minutes. Yet, we waited!

Now people pop nine of them in a news article as a means of telling the story. Favoring visuals instead of text on web sites is a superficial change, but it’s part of an evolution to real-time video connections and maybe even ambient presence. It’s like Skype on steroids.

But there are more serious benefits. For example, a few years ago when my daughter broke her leg I wrote how awesome it was that the doctors in the ER could just email her X-rays to the pediatric orthopedist on call.

The on-call doc got to stay home and we managed to get answers faster and get my daughter back home. X-rays are big files, and we’re lucky the doctor had the ability to receive them. He’s lucky he didn’t have a data cap that would prevent him from — or charge him extra — for getting multigigabyte files.

And that’s one of the biggest repercussions of Google’s fiber roll outs. The more people who can pay $70 for gigabit service (or get 5 Mbps for free), the more pressure this puts on the existing providers to upgrade their networks and cut anticonsumer crap like data caps. But that’s exactly why more cities need these networks.

You don’t need a gig today, but you need one for tomorrow

You may be wondering why you, in particular, need a gig. The answer is that today you don’t.

I spend all day thinking and writing about broadband and even I have no idea what I would do with a symmetrical gigabit network inside my home. But we’ve gone far beyond the idea that the internet is just a fad. It’s the underpinning of the information economy. Right now our content is digital, and while next generation video standards like 4K will require 25 Mbps connections, the real reason you need a gig isn’t about video.

The internet today transfers digital bits, but it’s rapidly moving to the place where it will transfer physical atoms. Thus, it won’t be about information, but about physical goods. Things like Uber or same-day delivery are examples of this. You tell the internet what you want and it delivers it for you in real-time or at least that day. If you consider 3D printers and the evolution of on-demand manufacturing then the internet could bring you physical goods directly. You want a bracelet you see online? If you have a 3D printer, the company will send the file to your Makerbot and it will print it.

This stool may be the future of on-demand, custom manufacturing.

This stool may be the future of on-demand, custom manufacturing.

More likely, the company would ship the design as a file to a manufacturing partner near your home and they would print it. Then they deliver it to you or you pick it up. Take this outside the consumer realm to manufacturing and maybe you get a car part in a few hours as opposed to waiting a few days for it to ship. In medicine, better and faster connectivity opens up the possibility of custom, on-demand drugs. There are startups today offering biological research services via the web. It’s not so far-fetched to imagine your pharmacy stocking the raw materials and then getting a custom drug recipe from your doctor via the web, and having it manufactured on the spot.

Let’s say goodbye to the information age and embrace what’s next.

This is the future, or some variation of the future. The point is we don’t know exactly what we will need, but it will need connectivity. And while we have physical resource constraints, legal barriers and a lack of knowledge about how to pull this future together, we shouldn’t have to worry about our connectivity. For us to move beyond the information age we need to be able to take out ability to transfer information reliability and at low cost for granted. Fiber networks offering a gigabit allow us to take data caps, congested networks and service providers that don’t want to lose their triple play revenue out of the equation.

crystal ball colorful

Only then does the information age become something that’s a given. Something that’s so much a part of our fabric that we can move on to the next level of innovation. And that is why we need a gig even if we don’t know what we’re going to do with it.

We need it so we can innovate. So we can move beyond animated GIFs and into the next wave of interactive story telling. So we can take the ability to ship medical records to the best doctor, no matter where she is located, for granted and start working on custom cures that will help that patient.

With Google Fiber, Austin will get that chance. Every single person who gets the opportunity to sign up should. They should stay up late talking to their spouses what they want to do with unlimited connectivity. The information age was awesome, but now it’s time to see what’s next.

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  1. While it will take a long time for me to get this service in Springfield, OH I can’t wait until I can. I’d love the speed and want to leave the greedy ISP in the past. Keep up the good work Google.

  2. very nice thoughts. I wish I lived in KC or Austin for a day to try Google Fiber out. Until then I will have to be happy with my 30/5 from Comcast (which is really more like 27/8)

  3. For us to move beyond the information age we need to be able to take out ability to transfer information reliability and at low cost for granted.

    Hopefully, it will also allow us to improve spell/grammar checking as well. :)

  4. Stuart Pierce Saturday, April 6, 2013

    To not be restricted to speeds of 25/4 would be amazing. I host my own in home web server for personal and research purposes and I know having bandwidth like that would open me up to an enormous potential of possibilities.

    1. The possibility it opened me up to was a botnet of 2000 PCs mostly in Russia and Thailand trying to hack into my home for 18 months using up massive amounts of bandwidth.

      1. Stacey Higginbotham lenslens1 Saturday, April 6, 2013

        There’s no doubt that security will be a concern, but I’m optimistic we’ll have innovation on that front as well.

  5. Thats nice…..but we dont live in Austin.

    1. Stacey Higginbotham Billy Rubin Saturday, April 6, 2013

      Other cities are doing their best to get gigabit fiber as well. Seattle and Chicago are working with a company called Gigabit Squared to make it happen. Sonic.Net is expanding its gigabit service into San Francisco. Chattanooga and Bristol, Tenn. have gigabit services and Verizon’s FiOS doesn’t offer gigabit speeds today, but it could if it feels like the demand is there.

      1. Thanks for the “Chattanooga” shout out. I share your enthusiasm about “what you can do with a gig.” You briefly covered GIGTANK earlier this year. We’re ramping up for the second year right now and pretty pumped about it. If you have any awesome ideas or people who we should talk to, please let us know!

      2. Fios becomes very expensive after the trial peroid. 300$/mo for the service outweighs any benefit.

  6. I’m still stuck with a horrible 1.5 Mb/s / 256 Kb/s DSL connection, and have been for the past decade or so. During peak hours, I get maybe half that speed. AT&T is horrible.

  7. I agree completely with you Stacey. We know how bad current bandwidth providers behave, we know we need more bandwidth, and we all wish for it now. Go Google!

  8. And at what costs?
    I’m not just talking money here.

  9. Wow living 10 minutes outside the second largest city of Fort Wayne, in Indiana having only a single Internet service provider of Frontier (Verizon DSL) with a max speed of 3M down .75 up; I am appalled at Comcast and any other ISP who refuses to expand for fear of loosing their television premium packages. Google Fiber needs a rapid national roll-out. Most if not all municipalities would foot the bill for better police/fire/municipal/school access on the basic infastructure and could then lease it to Google. This NEEDS to be done!

  10. living with my 8/1 here sucks.

    Reading your article, allowed me to take a moment and imagine what we might do with speeds such as the Gigs, and the endless possibilities.

    I can clearly see from your writing that you are pretty excited about this, and you infected me as well.

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