Google may still have plans for the spread of its fiber-to-the home network to more cities, but on the search giant’s earnings call comments from the CFO indicate that Google has accomplished its initial mission when it came to rolling our fiber-to-the-home services. On Wednesday Google CFO Patrick Pichette, said in response to a question about Google’s long-term strategy on fiber:
“I think that everybody now in the industry is talking about the gig. It’s becoming the standard and we are absolutely thrilled for all of the users out there that can think they own 1 gigabit of symmetrical Internet at a reasonable price.”
In other words, Google has done what it set out to do, which was to upset the status quo in the U.S. broadband market. At the time, consumers were resigned to slow upgrades of the networks in respectable increments led by cable providers who typically provide the fastest networks, but also have data caps. When the service launched, Google executives repeatedly told a story about how they realized they shouldn’t just whine about poor connectivity, they should do something to make it happen.
Google Fiber was initially a way to show that delivering a fiber network could be built and to get consumers, regulators and elected officials excited about what a modern network could do. From the initial launch in Kansas City Google officials said it would be profitable to deliver a gig at $70 a month. Last year, Google amended that original mission to say that it wants to use Google Fiber as a moneymaker.
But that first goal is certainly accomplished. Now we have ISPs like AT&T, VermontTel, CenturyLink and C-Spire rolling out gigabit networks, and even providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable boosting speeds on their own networks as well as pushing for more ubiquitous Wi-Fi to counter the gigabit threat.
Google also pushed municipalities to get serious about their broadband quality and figure out ways to make it easier to install fiber to the home networks without running into impossible rules and red tape. As Blair Levin, the executive director of Gig.U has told me on several occasions, Google has changed the cost-and-benefits analysis that cities do when considering their broadband infrastructure.
Meanwhile the fiber service is sparking conversations about gigabit apps, how we regulate or even write terms of service for broadband access and driving up expectations about service for low-income areas. And yes, everyone’s excited about a gig. Of course, the next hard challenge to solve in U.S. broadband will be figuring out how to serve rural areas with uncapped, high-speed broadband. Maybe Google’s Loon project?