Got Google Fiber envy? Here are three steps to pave the way

For those who'd like Google or someone else to drop super-fast broadband fiber-optic links to their houses, the head of Google Fiber offers advice.

Google Access chief Kevin Lo speaks at Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam.
Google Access chief Kevin Lo speaks at Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam. Stephen Shankland/CNET

AMSTERDAM -- The number of communities that wanted Google Fiber proved vastly larger than than the number of places -- three -- where Google thus far has actually chosen to build its gigabit broadband network.

But for the have-nots out there, Google Access project leader Kevin Lo offered some advice at the Broadband World Forum here for attracting Google Fiber or some other ultrafast broadband provider. It's not about tax breaks, he said, but rather relatively mundane measures that cities and towns can take:

• First, grant new Internet providers access to power poles, ducts, and cable conduits. Once Google has figured out what it needs to use, "We agree to a fair-market price so we can get up to that space," Lo said.

• Second, provide good maps -- not just to locate power poles and conduit channels, but also water mains and gas lines that complicate installations. "We've been surprised how big a problem this is for a lot of our cities," Lo said.

• Last, expedite construction permits. "When we build, we are submitting literally tens of thousands of permits. We work closely with the city to expedite that process. These are the things that have been consuming our teams' time," Lo said.

Google Fiber is an option in Kansas City, Mo., Kansas City, Kan., Provo, Utah, and Austin, Texas. It offers 1-gigabit-per-second broadband service for $70 a month or, with TV service added in, $120 per month.

Broadband speeds have been steadily increasing, but Google is trying to push the market faster and throw cold water on assertions that today's broadband is fast enough.

"There's a myth that consumers don't want, won't pay for, or don't need high-speed broadband. Based on our experience that simply isn't true. There's huge demand for faster Internet," Lo said. "Even companies that said publicly that customers don't want higher speeds have begun to raise their speeds and lower prices in Google Fiber markets."

Instead of gradually spreading fiber-optic links across a city, Google tries to build it at once with teams that operate in parallel, Lo said. One reason the company has to talk to cities in advance is "to make sure they're prepared for pace we need to build at to make the business model work."

Although Google strives for a fast Google Fiber build-out within a city, Lo wouldn't say how fast the company wants the program to spread elsewhere -- or even if it will, for that matter.

"We're really focused on delivering great service to users in Kansas City, Austin, and Provo," Lo said. "It's efforts like this that gives us the opportunity to talk to policymakers and local cities, to lay down the conditions necessary for a new entrant to build a fiber-to-the-home newtork, whether that's us or another party."

The current generation of broadband facilitated video streaming, photo sharing, and videoconferencing, he said. And although he didn't offer any specific idea, he did say that "We're confident the next 100x improvement in speeds will lead to more innovation."

Some start-ups are cropping up in the Kansas City region, taking advantage not just of the fast network but also of the fact that so many residents -- aka customers -- have a fast network.

"Kansas City is not traditionally considered a tech hub, but fiber has served to motivate a lot of local entrepreneurs," Lo said.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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