Google to bring Fiber Optic Network to Local Communities
By Janet M
Fiber optic technology is changing the internet, and now Google is taking it even further. Marketwatch has announced that Google will test a direct to home fiber optic connection. This service is expected to be up to 1 gigabit per second. Google has changed the technology of faster internet connections with "cloud computing" services which host data on a remote server, freeing the user's local machine.
If Google makes this service a reality, it will change the way people connect to the internet. They have already pioneered "cloud computing" with Google Docs, Picasa photo editing, Calendar, and now Chrome OS. However, the speed with which the user connects to these services is slow, topping out at around 50 mbps. This means that desktop applications are still necessary for many programs. Direct fiber optic connection will change how high speed internet providers do business, because Google's proposed service is much more fast than even the fastest internet service providers. Direct to home fiber optic internet is the same technology currently in use by Verizon FiOS, which is only available in limited areas. One gigabit per second is 1,024 megabits. FiOS offers customers download speeds of up to 50 Mbps, and uploads of 35 Mbps.
Currently, Google is planning a test of the ultra high speed internet service and has asked interested municipalities to apply through a RFI (Request for Information) on their site. They announce that the initial stage of the service will be competitively priced and available for at least 50,000 up to 500,000 people in the United States. Among the cities seeking to partner with Google, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Somerville MA. The partnership will include obtaining city permits, and digging up streets to construct the network. Google will also share the fiber with other companies who want to provide ultra high speed service.
How would this affect cyberspace as we know it? If Google succeeds with this plan, they will not only be competition for existing internet service providers, but they will be the source for competitors seeking to expand networks and upgrade speed. Content providers for video and music downloads will be switching to streaming services, as people will rely less on their desktop. Software providers will find that cloud based products are more of a direct competition, and will be competing against free products available anywhere instead of confined to the end user's desktop.
Google's announcement is timed well. The Federal Communication Commission has a task force in place to propose a national broadband plan. They estimate that this would cost up to $350 billion. Last week, Julius Genachowski, chairman of the FCC, said: “This significant trial will provide an American testbed for the next generation of innovative, high-speed internet apps, devices, and services.” Currently, Google operates a Wi-fi network in their home city of Mountain View, California. It is expected that by encouraging the development of national broadband, they are also stepping up their entry into the wireless market.
Interested communities have until March 26 to respond to the RFI, and be considered for inclusion in the trial network. Individuals and businesses can also nominate their communities, which means that the nomination process is not confined to government officials. If Google's plan succeeds, cyber space will get a whole lot bigger for the average consumer, and existing providers of internet services, software, and downloads will need to revise their business plans.