Blog Post

Kansas City Gets Gigabit Speeds. What About the Rest of Us?

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

In February 2010, Google announced they were going to give some lucky city a gigabit network (services on the network are not free). Today, Google announced Kansas City, Kan. is the Gigabit City winner. It’s an awesome day for Kansas City, and it may not be alone. In Google’s blog today about Kansas City is this statement: “We’ll also be looking closely at ways to bring ultra high-speed Internet to other cities across the country.” Sounds like Google isn’t finished yet. And that’s a good thing.

When Google started down this path last year, I wrote an analysis outlining what I thought Google’s actions meant and how it might impact efforts to bring better broadband to America. Now that we have a winner, some of those key point put today’s Kansas City announcement into national context.

Vision: Don’t Leave Home Without It

Remember the New York Governor’s race and The Rent is Too D*** High party that ran a candidate? There needs to be a new party, The Broadband Goal is Too D*** Low. Wednesday’s announcement is going to throw a big spotlight on the deficiency between goals promoted in the National Broadband Plan and the vision promoted and amplified by Google. Whereas the Broadband Plan’s 10-year goal is to have 100 Mbps in 100 million homes, and just 4 Mbps in rural areas, Google asked, what can you do with a gigabit in the next year or two?

Washington is content to encourage gigabit lines to institutions, but for communities at large, it’s offering mid-range or substandard goals. Kansas City represents the philosophy of aim high, win big. Yes, there are communities where gigabit speeds aren’t practical, but Google will inspire more communities to find a way to get better wireless or wired broadband by aiming for that gigabit goal than by telling communities, “Four Mbps is the best you can hope for.”

Understanding Stakeholders’ Needs

One great thing that should come from news coverage of Kansas City’s community stakeholders is that the real value of broadband finally will sink into more people’s minds. So many times you read or hear community broadband critics miss the point, asking, “Why should we spend resources so kids can download YouTube and surf porn sites?” Over and over in Wednesday’s Kansas City webcast, you heard government officials, business people and just plain folks talk about the economic, healthcare and education benefits they have planned for broadband.

One of the reasons you have those anti-municipal network laws in the Carolinas and elsewhere is because older legislators in particular, and constituents in general, don’t understand the needs these networks address. In the Kansas statehouse, there’s likely to be less resistance to government and public utility participation, because those lawmakers see up close and personal that community broadband’s benefits are truly bipartisan.

The Value of Partnerships

Google redefines the general perception of public-private partnerships in broadband. To be fair, Corning (s glw), which makes fiber,  started this redefinition when it signed a partnership with three counties in rural New York to fund a community-owned network. But, Google being Google, the intense media coverage will help communities realize they don’t have to limit such private partnership discussions to only service providers.

Expect the creative juices to flow as communities reading about Kansas City begin to push the envelope in deciding what kind of companies make good partners. I received a call this week from a national retail outfit that said the home delivery part of their business is directly influenced by who has broadband. What if stakeholders pick up this thread and start probing businesses that want to increase sales in their community. Who might benefit enough to finance part of a network buildout?

Serving, Not Fighting, the Will of the People

I wrote in my analysis last year, “Google appears to have a strong desire get people actively engaged on the network, which also means lots of community involvement in the planning process.” Two of the reasons Google gave for choosing Kansas City are 1) it could quickly build the network because there’s a lot of great infrastructure in place that the community is making available for the network’s use; and 2) it was easy to develop partnerships with local government and various community stakeholders.

In 2004 and 2005, the U.S. saw a surge in communities willing to take on the burdens of building, owning and operating broadband infrastructure either alone or in partnership with private industry. The National Broadband Plan endorses and encourages community networks be part of the strategy for getting better broadband in more places. Kansas City is likely to become the poster child for the win-win possibilities for companies that step in to facilitate the will of the people.

Google is going to win in a number of ways. The publicity alone is going to be huge when you consider how much it costs to generate the print and digital coverage it’s getting from this project. Then there’s the R&D value of Kansas City as a test bed for potential Google apps and networking. Ultimately, there is also a dollars-and-cents value of being a part or partial owner of the infrastructure, depending on how Google structured the deal with the city.

And don’t forget the political clout Google will be able to wield within the state and in D.C. President Obama wants a digital future that achieves great things (mediocre speed goals and wireless over-dependency not withstanding). By responding to the will of people in communities (what some might call market demand), Google helps the administration get what it wants. AT&T (s t) and Verizon (s vz) may have officials’ ears when it comes to broadband policy, but Google has earned another seat at the table and another win.

Speaking about serving the will of the people, there’s another significant impact of the Kansas City announcement. It throws into bold relief the difference between a community and state working with private industry to take that community into the future, and a state such as North Carolina where a few legislators are working with private industry to drag communities back to the digital dark ages. Which state is being better served? The one serving the will of the people, of course.

Craig Settles is a broadband industry analyst and Co-Director of Communities United for Broadband and can be found at @cjsettles on Twitter.

3 Responses to “Kansas City Gets Gigabit Speeds. What About the Rest of Us?”

  1. There needs to be a new party, The Broadband Goal is Too D*** Low.

    I love that. Should any provider that does not provide SUSTAINED 768Kbps (FCC Definition of Broadband) be allowed to market their products as BROADBAND? I don’t think so! This is out and out FRAUD!

    Do you TRUST a company that fraudulently steals your hard earned money? Even if they take it at the rate of $10 additional dollars per month a year at a time.

    Considering the Telco – Cable Co – Cellular oligopoly has been collectively abusing American citizen TRUST for over 20 years, would it not be INSANE of us to expect them to finally, 20 years later, to do the right thing, to live up to their promises of Fiber To The Home (FTTH)? And make it synchronous or don’t waste our time!

    Do we TRUST a company (or politician) that LIES to us? Why?

    For the years of abusing American TRUST, they deserve to have none of our business. Thankfully we can either move to a Synchronous FTTH city or run for office and bring Synchronous FTTH to our community today. Unless of course you live in one of the 18 states with either an Outright ban, De Facto Ban or Various barriers to competition.

    Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas are the only four states with outright bans, so far.

    Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia are three states with de facto bans. Many of the 11 states with various barriers in reality are de facto bans against FTTH, Internet competition or other anti-American, anti-job, politically supported legislation. (The eleven states are Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

    If your state is not listed above, do NOT rest easy the oligopoly that is keeping you and I in the dark ages is actively pursuing legislation at both the state and national level to prevent you from receiving the light. You might want to ask your elected leaders when your community is going to get SYNCHRONOUS Fiber To The Home (FTTH).

    Google is going to win in a number of ways. The publicity alone is going to be huge when you consider how much it costs to generate the print and digital coverage it’s getting from this project.

    And those communities are going to recover, economically, faster than non synchronous FTTH communities across the world and across the USA.

    If you need an analogy, how about LIGHT (Synchronous FTTH) vs DARKness (non-FTTH)

    Epic battles, like Luke (anyone wanting synchronous FTTH) vs Darth Vader(oligopoly) come ready to mind. Help me Google One your (almost) our only hope!

    Here are a few more:
    Superman (Synchronous FTTH) vs Lex Luther (Telco – Cable Co – Cellular oligopoly)

    Good (Synchronous FTTH) vs Evil (non-FTTH oligopoly)

    Google, Greenlight, EPB, LUS, Utopia, Fibrant, Prime-Time (Light) vs Oligopoly (Dark)

    Americans (Synchronous FTTH) vs Politicians (bought and paid for by the incumbents).

    I would not be sleeping too well if I were employed by anyone within the oligopoly. After thwarting Americas future for over 20 years what do you expect. You better believe that Google is going to get massive good publicity and with each and every bit of coverage there will be many Americans that will be saying Where’s The Fiber? The incumbent oligopoly will not be thought of fondly either.

    I guess you do eventually reap what you sow…serves you right. By all rights they (incumbent oligopoly) should EXPECT their business to go under, to go bust, to fail. You have had over 20 years to provide Fiber to Americans instead of excuses. Fiber for which many of you, if not all, have been handsomely paid (our tax dollars, additional fees and taxes on our phone bills). To add insult to injury you spend millions lobbying to prevent Muni FTTH instead of doing the right thing and providing this much needed bandwidth and resource.

    The incumbent deserves nothing but are disgust! You deserve to be shunned. It would serve you right if all Americans churned away from your pathetic excuse for service, your customer no-service. And not just for one generation, but two, three or four or more.

    Well you no longer matter, you incumbent, oligopoly poor excuse for an American business as we have options today!

    How much money have you cost Americans in lost jobs, lost opportunities, missing Gross Domestic Product, lost wages and the economic boost that would bring to any community?

    We should have had synchronous FTTH by 2000. If you think we are going to wait another 5 years or 10 years given we can move today and have synchronous FTTH tomorrow, you are sadly mistaken.

    Where’s the Fiber? WTF?

    Oh and make it synchronous or take a long walk off a short pier!

  2. Actually @Designer Furniture UK, better invest in either DD-WRT, OpenWRT or tomato firmware on a supported firewall/router to learn the truth. You are NOT getting 16Mb downstream, I know.

    I have Cable Internet with the “up to” promise of 16Mb/2Mb. I never see above 400Kbps upstream except for the Speed Test. Immediately after the speed test finishes my broadband is immediately throttled back to around 100Kb/30Kb.

    100% of Cable providers limit your bandwidth to below the “up to” promise. DSL providers do too! Even FIOS who advertises “up to” 50Mb/5Mb restricts that to something less. Though it would still be better than Cable or DSL.

    Thankfully the firmware (DD-WRT for me) above comes with a 24 x 7 bandwidth monitor. Therefore whenever a video or other streaming content sputters, pauses or skips I can check to see how bad my provider is limiting my bandwidth. Upstream is ALWAYS below the FCC definition of 768Kbps, therefore I do NOT consider my Cable provider as providing me broadband.

    I usually only see around 300Kbps/30Kbps. I can force it up to 2Mb/300Kbps if I stream something while downloading something else. However even if I stream something, while simultaneously downloading two other things while surfing the web, I rarely see above 350Kbps upstream. I do occasionally see 1Mb, 2Mb and 4Mb 1 sec spikes downstream….but never more than 350Kbps…it sucks.

    I have no doubt that you are throttled, restricted, limited in the same manner, you just do not know it because you do not have a bandwidth monitor showing you the truth.

    In fact there are some sites that my provider prevents me from seeing content as they throttle it harder than others. Lately Fox and my provider are arguing over rates, therefore all Fox websites are throttled back even more severely. It would be funny if it was not killing my service. Based on my experience, a viable court strategy should your provider try to come after you for downloading content, would be that you have no choice because they restrict your bandwidth so severely that in order to watch streaming content you MUST download it. Think Tivo, time-swapping, or recording content just to watch and than erase, not to re-sale or sell tickets to like a movie theater. But I am sure you understood that already.

    I can not wait to get synchronous FTTH, either this year or next!