The Great Cable Game: Enter Google

If I were Comcast, Dish, DirecTV, et. al. I'd be sounding the warning bell. Iceberg straight ahead!

Fiber to the home: Seen that, done that?
Fiber to the home: Seen that, done that?

If you’re like me, the first thing that came to mind you read about Google’s new super-highspeed Internet pilot now being rolled out in Kansas was: When can I get it?

At 1,000 megabits (1 gigabit), you could surf the entire web in 60 seconds flat. BusinessWeek calls it “smoking-fast.”  Could you imagine how much more productive your Facebooking and Tweeting would be?!

And from what’s being reported, pricing isn’t all that bad. $70 gets you the high-speed service, plus there’s a few extras such as $300 hookup and $30 online fees.

That the’s personal end of the story. When it comes to The Great Cable Game, that was all but dead and buried, there’s far more at stake.

You’ve got to hand it to Google. Just when the great big telecom wars of the 80s and 90s (deregulation, Asynchronous Telecom Mode and convergence, privatization,)  had simmered, here (finally) comes… competition. If I were Comcast, Dish, DirecTV, et. al. I’d be sounding the warning bell. Iceberg straight ahead!

Google had resurrected that great mantra that Cisco parlayed in the late 90s/early 2002s in a bid to sell big iron to the middle men: “Fiber to the home.”

Out jump the Google-ites, ready to put a karate chop, and a ka-pow or two on the stodgy cable operators.

Given the upfront investment in infrastructure required to lay the pipes, Google is one of but a few — perhaps the only — company on this planet that has a serious chance of upending the cable market as we sadly know it today. Maybe Apple could do it. But its expertise is consumer front-end stuff, like user interfaces, svelte design. Google is all about infrastructure, platforms, and, more recently, mobile devices (incidentally, Google throws in a man-sized remote, aka the Nexus 7 tablet, as part of the $50 add-on television service). It’s about more than just content. Yes, content is king, but owning the highway means eliminating costly tolls (tariffs).

Google’s managing risk too.

50 customers in a given neighborhood need to sign up for the new service, before the plumbing begins. This managed approach likely means a slow roll-out, and it’s hard to imagine this would scale as the company brings on board other cities and regions. In the interim it demonstrates a savvy management team, big on execution. Conversely, if this were a 1999 start-up, it would’ve burnt through $50 million in funding digging holes, while running national marketing campaigns for a service that did not yet exist.

So, when can you get Google Fiber?

No word on that yet. The Kansas trials begin this fall. If they go well it wouldn’t be far-fetched to expect at least one or two metropolitan areas sometime later 2013. Beyond that who’s to say.

It may be a pilot program, but it’s prospects are scintillating.

How long before Google (or Apple) makes a run at the carriers too?

True, Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T in particular have spent decades laying pipes. Contracts and capped data, however, are evil, and the big guys have done little to demonstrate they’re willing to listen to customers. Instead, it’s all about the early termination fee, the hidden activation fee, the overage fee. I’ve written a lot recently about Google’s move into the direct model, notably with the Galaxy Nexus smartphone, and more recently with the well-received Nexus 7 tablet. These are devices, yes, but in reality they’re Trojan horses. Out jump the Google-ites, ready to put a karate chop, and a ka-pow or two on the stodgy cable operators. Yep, enter Google.

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  • I know its off topic, do you think its a possibility that Google buys T-Mobile? With Google Fiber, Google own the pipes for wired transmission. For wireless transmission, thats where T-Mobile comes in.