Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Google To Fund 1 Gig FTTH!

Google plans to build at least one 1 gig FTTH community network somewhere in the United States.

WOW. (Respectful pause while we collectively gather our wits.)

This stunning announcement is, in part, Google putting its money where its mouth is. Google has been a strong advocate of the FCC's upcoming national broadband plan showing some imagination and has been a strong advocate of fiber to the home in that context. My guess is that part of what Google found out that fiber is the necessary first step during its initial experiment in public networking. In its hometown of Mountain View they built a public WiFi network. While that has been a mild success by most accounts wireless simply cannot push the bandwidth Google wants to watch people explore; especially without a dense fiber network. Fiber To The Home is the endgame here and Google is going directly for the gold in its second experiment.

Google has issued a request for information (RFI) asking communities to express an interest. They've announced a few constraints. First, they want to fund full communities projects, 50, 000 to 500, 000—no big announcements and small 100 house "pilots" for Google! Besides size they are also planning to explore open networks—they want to build open networks that any service provider can use. That goes hand in glove with their open source stance in other areas. The model of municipally-centered open networks has show tremendous success in Scandinavia and that is likely the model they are taking as a starting point.

This is, of course, all great stuff. With most of the scuttle-butt about the upcoming National Broadband Plan warning of a less than exciting document Google is offering to blaze a path forward out of the national ennui. Good for them.

Basically this would be great for Lafayette: we desperately need large population in other parts of the country to get onboard with truly high speed broadband. Until there is a sizable population there won't be much development of new apps. And since research shows that most communications (as opposed to passive consumption) takes place between people who live close by the only way to get a handle on the next generation internet is to wire up whole, concentrated communities. Another several dozen full fiber communities is what Lafayette and the few fully fibered communities in the US really need.

The catch for Lafayette, and the few communities that have already invested in advanced networking, is that, well, we've already built our state-of-the-art fiber network. But it would be really great to participate in the "innovative apps" part of the game. And our network is up and running. If I may be so bold: Google, can we play too. You can use our community as a contrast to the one you build elsewhere....

Update: Here's the smartest analysis of what Google is doing here that I've seen. And by smart I mean that once I read it I say. Oh...wow...yes..of course. :-) Harold Feld over at Tales of the Sausage Factory does that to me on a regular basis. Recommended

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