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Published 10 April 2013 12:06, Updated 16 April 2013 14:20
Google’s ‘Fiber’ FTTH service will offer gigabit internet connections as well as 200 HDTV channels for $US120 per month. Photo: Google
As Australia’s politicians begin to converge ever so slightly on the idea of a national broadband network, Google is pushing ahead with its own fibre-to-the-home network in the US, announcing Texas’s No.2 city Austin as the second destination for its Google Fiber gigabit internet and HDTV service.
Like Labor’s national broadband network plan in Australia, Google aims to connect residential homes directly to a high-speed fibre network.
On Tuesday, the federal Coalition announced that it would change the Australian NBN to become a fibre-to-the-node network, which would cut rollout costs by running fibre to neighbourhood cabinets and connecting homes to the network via existing copper phone lines. Services would initially run at 25Mbps and increase to 50Mbps during a Coalition government’s second term, opposition leader Tony Abbott and communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull announced.
Google said it would begin connecting homes in Austin to its fibre-optic network some time in 2014.
As well as a fast internet connection, Google Fiber also offers TV in the form of 200 HD channels.
Google Fiber is already being sold in Kansas, where a gigabit internet connection and TV service costs $US120 a month, an internet-only service costs $US70 a month and a free, more limited internet service is available to customers that agree to pay a $US300 connection fee. Pricing in Austin would be similar, Google said.
Announcing the rollout, Google talked up Austin’s tech credentials. “It’s a mecca for creativity and entrepreneurialism, with thriving artistic and tech communities, as well as the University of Texas and its new medical research hospital,” its blog post says.
Google announced its Fiber initiative in 2010 and more than 1100 US cities bid to be the first to have the service installed. Kansas was selected in 2011.
Faster broadband has been on the agenda in the US in 2013, with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announcing in January the Gigabit City Challenge, which urges ISPs and governments to have at least one gigabit-connected community in each of America’s 50 states within two years.
The plan is backed by a series of workshops, the first of which was held in March.
While government groups such as the FCC are working to foster better broadband rollout in the US, rollouts will almost always be led by private industry.
On Forbes.com, Tim Worstall argues that the Google Fiber rollout underlines one of the flaws in American capitalism, namely that it’s too easy for incumbents to shoot down industry-changing new developments such as new high-speed networks.
Google Fiber, he says, has managed to get as far as it has because no one’s been taking it seriously. But once the incumbents begin to feel truly threatened, they’ll fire up lawyers, PRs and lobbyists in an attempt to cut Google off.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that they [Google] are technically capable of rolling it out,” Worstall says.
“Nor that, even if with difficulty, they could finance it.
“But look at why it is said that it won’t be rolled out. Because the lawyers for the current incumbents will tie everyone up in knots inside the various bureaucracies. And people simply don’t have the time, money or inclination to spend their lives fighting that.”
But others argue that Google does not intend to embark on a national broadband rollout, which Bernstein analysts estimate could cost $US11 billion, to reach 20 million homes.
Rather, it’s argued that Google is testing the waters and also hoping to prompt the incumbents into building their own networks on which Google can then offer services.
“It may be that Google never planned for something as costly and extensive as a 20-city, $11 billion investment. A far smaller one in the hundreds of millions, however, could end up being money well spent,” Ingrid Lunden writes on TechCrunch.