Hoping your town or city will join Kansas City and Austin, and become the proud hosts of Google Fiber? Well, I hate being the bearer of bad news, but the chances of that happening are not very good.
Not that it doesn’t make sense, at least on the surface. A nationwide rollout of Google Fiber would likely be a huge success. After all, Harris Interactive’s latest corporate reputation poll suggests that Google is one of the most trusted companies out there, beating out broadband providers by a mile.
Google: 4th place
Verizon: 36th place
AT&T: 39th place
Time Warner: 48th place
Comcast: 51st place
So it might seem like the time is ripe for Google to swoop in and lay waste to the players in this industry, just as it has to others. However, as Wired wisely notes, there’s a big difference this time around. The dominant companies here aren’t just would-be competitors for Google — they’re also something akin to partners. Those ISPs provide the pipes that currently connect everyone to the Web, where Google makes its real money serving up ads. Monkeying with this would disrupt more than just the broadband industry; it could affect the very lifeblood of Google.
Ultimately, it all comes down to infrastructure. Those providers have and continue to take on that massive burden, and that’s probably the way Google wants things to stay. Of course, that hinges on the presumption that these “partners” won’t get greedy and start doing crazy things, like taking advantage of the tech giant’s dependence on them.
This is precisely the scenario that the analysts at Bernstein Research believe the company needs to think about: “Google is (and should be) concerned about the long-term market power of broadband access providers. … Carriers, which are de facto intermediaries between Google and end-users could, at least in theory, ask Google to pay for service, or at least, for quality-of-service.”
That could explain why Mountain View is experimenting in Kansas City and Austin. Just in case things really hit the fan, the company may be trying to suss out what it would take to build out their own network — like a big research project taking place out in the field. Sure, Chairman Eric Schmidt said the company was running Google Fiber “as a business,” but he didn’t say it would be the company’s primary business. And to build this out nationwide, that’s pretty much what it would have to be.
Let’s look at the numbers: Bernstein estimates that Google spent $84 million to establish its Kansas City fiber network. That covered the first 149,000 homes. If we’re talking 20 million homes, that shoots up to $10 to 15 billion. While not totally out of reach for the tech company, that’s still a fraction of how many households there are in the U.S.
In other words, don’t hold your breath waiting for Google Fiber. It could open in a few other markets, but it’s not likely to launch everywhere and definitely not in the immediate future. So if you’re one of the few who gets to experience it, thank your lucky stars — because most of us won’t.