On Friday, Google closed its call on its initiative on ultra-broadband open access networks. According to James Kelly, Google Fiber Product Manager (what a cool job title !), more than 1,100 communities and 194,000 individuals have submitted a response to the bid. James doesn't tell much about the applicants, giving just a couple of links to fancy stuff on YouTube or Facebook. We'll have to wait a little bit to get all the names, and, more importantly, the happy few cities who'll get the chance to experiment Google Fiber.
For the time being, we must dig the Net to find out some concrete data. As such, Martin of Zettaphile.com has put together an exhaustive list of those communities, which contains some well known cities, e.g. Anchorage, AK, Tempe, AZ, Berkeley, CA, etc. Also, Tim Poulus built his own list where we can see that Palo Alto has apparently decided to apply to Google Fiber as well.
The list of small communities in Rural America who
applied to Google' s RFI is just impressive. Asheville, North Carolina,
has launched a viral marketing campaign here, including a useful blog which tracks the news about the
collectivities seeking for Google's help. Also in NC, Greensboro is
looking for its House M.D. Their Googlegrensboro website
is just gorgeous.
Nevertheless, two elements in James's blog post are of concern to me. First, this sentence about the responses : "all with the goal of bringing ultra high-speed broadband to their communities": no word on open neutral access here. Then, the map at the end of the post : beside the fact that it's not an interactive one (ever heard of Google Maps, James ? ;-), there's something which rings a bell to me.
When you look at this map, the evidence is that people don't want Google Fiber per se. They want Broadband, full stop. As everybody knows, the US Government has publicly announced it National Broadband Plan last week. See the official video here, and download the full document here (dear Wisconsin's readers, be patient : 11.50MB ;-). Just compare the actual maps listing the current pending or granted awards (thanks to Rob Powell of Telecoms Ramblings for the heads up) with the Google Fiber's one : it's almost the same. That means most of the people consider the Mountain View giant as another communications services provider, at the same level than a Verizon or an AT&T or a ComCast.
The problem is : Google doesn't position itself as a services provider. To better understand my point, let's read Google Fiber statement again - full text here :
Our goal is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better, and faster for everyone. Here are some specific things that we have in mind:
- Next generation apps: We want to see what developers and users can do with ultra high-speeds, whether it's creating new bandwidth-intensive "killer apps" and services, or other uses we can't yet imagine.
- New deployment techniques: We'll test new ways to build fiber networks; to help inform, and support deployments elsewhere, we'll share key lessons learned with the world.
- Openness and choice: We'll operate an "open access" network, giving users the choice of multiple service providers. And consistent with our past advocacy, we'll manage our network in an open, non-discriminatory, and transparent way.
Google will be a operators' s operator, of the same kind than what we already enjoy here in Europe with the Reggefibers type of Open Neutral Access providers. When you see this flash mob organized by some hungry guys in Columbia, Missouri, you doubt they've got it right.
My guess is that the majority of the individuals who have called on Google Fiber have done it for the very same reasons people here in France called on their local govs some years ago: they live in a Broadband deadzone, as those French peers were living in a DSL black hole ("ADSL White Zone" as we call it ). No matter who provides the service and how, people just want their broadband connection at home, to watch HDTV without glitches and upload their family's photos faster.
The best example of this quest comes from the city of Peoria, Illinois. Their call is all about speed. Nothing on the benefits on the local economy through the creation of new services thus new jobs, nothing on the benefits of Open Neutral Access at large.
"Think big with a gig" is Google Fiber's motto. I'm afraid 80% of the 1,100 communities actually think small thanks to their geeks. I sincerely wish James and his team good luck with the review of the responses, hoping they will come up with one or two truly groundbreaking projects.
post-scriptum : since Fibergeneration is well indexed by Google' s engines, I know this post is set to appear quickly on top of James' s alerts. So, here's my advice, dear James : you may want to investigate what a few furious guys have achieved somewhere in South-West of France with the Pau Broadband Country FTTH muni network. To get started, click here.