Three More U.S. Cities Might Soon Get Google Fiber
Google is adding three more potential candidates to the list of cities where it's eyeing the development of high-speed Internet connectivity. Among the latest possible destinations for Google Fiber: Louisville, Kentucky, and two cities -- Irvine and San Diego -- in California.
First announced in 2010, Google Fiber was launched to deliver gigabit-per-second connectivity to a limited number of locations across the U.S. First billed as an "experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone," Google Fiber is already being deployed in Kansas City; Austin, Texas; and Provo, Utah.
Under its current plans, Google is aiming to lay the groundwork for 1,000 Mbps networking in 34 metropolitan areas across the U.S. Others -- including the Federal Communication Commission and the U.S. Conference of Mayors -- have also advocated for improving broadband connections across the country as a way to promote economic development. The U.S. ranks 19th globally in average download speeds, while South Korea leads the world in average network speeds, according to Akamai Technologies' most recent "State of the Internet Report."
Fiber Cities Among 'Fastest in World'
"While much of the United States still lags behind the rest of the world in Internet speeds, cities like Kansas City -- where Fiber started -- rank amongst the fastest cities in the world," Jill Szuchmacher, director of Google Fiber Expansion, said yesterday in a blog post. "We want to see more U.S. cities at the top of that list."
Having added Irving, Louisville and San Diego to its Fiber list, Google will next work with leaders in the three cities to assess the local infrastructures and study factors that could affect construction, Szuchmacher said. Once it has a better understanding of each city's potential, Google will then decide whether to go ahead with deploying fiber.
"Every city is different and will move on a unique timeline, so we'll keep in touch with residents about our progress along the way," Szuchmacher noted, adding that gaining insights into local infrastructure can help cities even if Google Fiber isn't installed. "[R]egardless of whether Google Fiber comes to the region, this process gives cities a head start in welcoming any gigabit provider to the area."
Efforts to Date Not Meaningful
We reached out to Hal Singer, a principal with Economists Inc., to learn what he thought would best help drive investment in high-speed connectivity. Singer told us he expected ISP investments in broadband to decline in 2015 in the wake of the FCC's order earlier this year in favor of Net Neutrality. Singer is co-author of the 2013 Brookings Press e-book, "The Need for Speed: A New Framework for Telecommunications Policy for the 21st Century."
"[It] seems like states/cities could offer rights of way, tax breaks, etc. as inducements," Singer said. Cities could also avoid requirements that ISPs build to all neighborhoods in a city regardless of demand. Google, for example, has made a point of surveying and obtaining commitments to learn where the demand was before digging, he added.
To make a measurable impact on overall speeds in the U.S., however, will likely take a "shoe to drop," with a giant provider like Comcast announcing that it will roll out gigabit Internet nationwide, David Belson, senior director for industry and data intelligence at Akamai, told us.
The challenge there, however, is that such efforts require large investments with uncertain ROI, Belson said. "The gigabit efforts within the U.S. to date have not made a meaningful or significant, measurable impact in the connection speeds [data] we're gathering," Belson said. Even in cities where high-speed networking is available the uptake rate is not 100 percent, he added.