Google recently announced its plans for a project called Google Fiber for Communities that promises to deliver speeds of up to 1 Gigabit Per Second (1 Gbps), and while the plans seem very innocent and benevolent, don’t let them fool you that there isn’t a bigger message being sent with with this plan.
Stacey Higginbotham of GigaOm interviewed Minnie Ingersoll, a product manager for alternative access at Google, recently, and the most fascinating question was the last:
GigaOM: It has to be asked: Is Google going to become an ISP?
Ingersoll: We are not planning to roll out a nationwide ISP network. This is a test bed for innovation.
When I read this, I felt like the word ‘yet’ was missing off of that ISP (Internet Service Provider) comment. ‘We are not planning to roll out a nationwide ISP network … yet.’
Ms. Ingersoll was very clear in her answer, but it can’t be denied that the mere existence of Google being able to deliver speeds such as this, at a “competitive price” as they have said, it has got to be making some ISPs sit up and take notice. According to the 2009 Speed Matters broadband report (PDF link), the United States currently ranks 28th in the world for average Internet speeds.
While Google is doing this incredible speed in a limited test, it does send a very distinct message to the ISPs of, “We can do this, why can’t you?” It can also be interpreted as, “if you don’t do this, we might very well come knocking on your door.”
Not only is the Internet situation in America embarrassing from a speed point of view, but pricing in the country has also been a point of contention with residents of other countries paying lower rates than we do for faster speeds. By Google saying the price will be “competitive”, they aren’t locking themselves into an unproven pricing structure, but it does seem to send another message to all of the companies out there in the country that seem to have come to believe we are an endless stream of bottomless wallets for them to continue taking from because there was no serious challenger to their control.
Google might very well never enter the market in a full capacity, and it could stick with its purported plans of using broadband plan merely as a test bed for how Web apps will operate with those sort of speeds. The fact is that Google being the 800-lbs gorilla in the room means it doesn’t always have to say something to get its point across. Just being in a market can make companies uneasy, and if ISPs want to keep Google off their playground, they’re going to have to not only increase their speeds, but keep their pricing reasonable.
It’s amazing what you can accomplish without actually having to do anything when you’re a company the size of Google.