Google, the world’s biggest online
search engine, wants to turbocharge your Internet connection.
The company said Wednesday it is
getting into the broadband service business with trials for fiber networks that
will deliver Internet access speeds that are 100 times faster than what most
Americans are getting today.
With its announcement, the Internet
juggernaut added to a fast-growing list of industries it has barreled its way
through. Tuesday, it announced a social networking feature directly aimed at
Facebook. Late last year, it got into the cellphone business with a smartphone
to rival Apple’s iPhone and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry. The list goes on:
The book, music, video, newspaper and map businesses have all been shaken by
Google’s steady march to place its marker on those industries for the Web.
“Our goal is to experiment
with new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone,”
wrote Google product managers Minnie Ingersoll and James Kelly in the blog
titled, “Think big with a gig: our experimental fiber network.”
The company said it will build
fiber-to-the-home connections to a small number of locations across the country
that will deliver Internet access speeds of 1 gigabit per second. It will take
bids from municipalities beginning through late March to determine what areas
would be part of its experiment. Google said access prices for consumers would
competitive and that its network would reach at least 50,000 and potentially up
to 500,000 people. A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the
company doesn’t currently have plans to expand beyond the initial tests but
will evaluate as the tests progress.
Federal Communications Commission
Chairman Julius Genachowski lauded the announcement.
“Big broadband creates big
opportunities,” he said in a statement. “This significant trial will
provide an American testbed for the next generation of innovative, high-speed
Internet apps, devices and services.”
Why is Google doing it? To
experiment with applications ultra-fast broadband access could support. The
firm also wants to try out new ways to build fiber networks and share those
lessons to other network operators. Google, a proponent of open-access
policies, said its network would give consumers a choice of multiple service
The company emphasized it would
adhere to network neutrality rules it has pushed for with federal regulators.
Such rules would prevent a carrier from treating content differently. That
could include favoring Google’s applications on the network over others.
“We hope this will serve as an
example to other network operators that the open model should not be feared,
but should be emulated,” said Markham Erickson, executive director of the
Open Internet Coalition. “Profit and openness and mistakenly seen to be in
conflict; in fact we believe they are synergistic and amplifying.”
Some of the fastest connections
through cable, DSL and fiber access cap off around 20 to 50 megabits a second.
Google chief executive Eric Schmidt told The Washington Post during a visit
late last year that ultra-high-speed Internet connections were imperative for a
next generation of applications to take off for the Web. Currently, he said,
most network services fall short.
At such speeds, a rural health
center could receive streaming three-dimensional medial imaging over the Web
and discuss health issues with a physician in a Los Angeles, for example.
Downloading high-definition, full-length feature films would take about five
minutes, Google said.
Google has been experimenting with
broadband service for years. It has been running a WiFi network in its headquarters
city of Mountain View, Calif. It is also advocating at the Federal
Communications Commission to use unlicensed spectrum, called White Spaces, for