One of the interesting things about Google Fiber is that it isn’t just people getting shiny new 1 Gbps connections for $70: it’s a network data collection exercise, a marketing experiment, a testbed for new services and ads — but first and foremost it’s a massive public relations fire under the posteriors of the nation’s all-too-comfortable, government-pampered, uncompetitive broadband ISPs. Google Fiber isn’t really even available to all that many people (a few thousand, probably), yet its impact on the national discourse has been massive. Also impressive has been the sheer volume of free marketing Google gets for the service as cities — dissatisfied with existing broadband ISPs — climb on top of and over one another to be first in line to be next in line.
Google’s first call for a potential city (before they picked Kansas City) resulted in an unprecedented nationwide media frenzy. Four years later with just two (Kansas City and Provo, barely) markets launched and a third planned (Austin), its pretty clear that Google Fiber won’t be coming to most of us anytime soon
. Still, Google recently cleverly teased some 34 cities in 9 metro areas
with the faint possibility they could be next in line. From aGoogle blog post
“We aim to provide updates by the end of the year about which cities will be getting Google Fiber. Between now and then, we’ll work closely with each city’s leaders on a joint planning process that will not only map out a Google Fiber network in detail, but also assess what unique local challenges we might face….While we do want to bring Fiber to every one of these cities, it might not work out for everyone. But cities who go through this process with us will be more prepared for us or any provider who wants to build a fiber network. In fact, we want to give everyone a boost in their thinking about how to bring fiber to their communities; we plan to share what we learn in these 34 cities…”
In short, Google’s again creating free media coverage for themselves while drawing attention to the ignored competitive problems in the country’s broadband market. Cities that won’t get Google Fiber (and I’d bet only one or two of the 34 actually will) will at least benefit from the experiences Google and other cities have learned as they attempt to navigate installation pitfalls and disrupt the status quo.
Google Fiber’s selection of these 34 cities also indicates they want to start a broader conversation about the bills ISPs have gotten passed in a number of states that hamstring town and city efforts to wire themselves with broadband — even if nobody else will. The Carolinas in particular have been a real hotbed of protectionist legislation
crafted by the likes of Time Warner Cable, AT&T and CenturyLink, and by focusing on the Raleigh-Durham area and Charlotte, Google pretty clearly wants to bring the focus on these awful bills into the foreground.