Google said Feb. 10 it plans to build and test 1G-bps ultrahigh-speed broadband networks in selected areas around the country. The fiber-to-the-home networks will reach between 50,000 and 500,000 people.
In addition, Google said, the networks will follow the network neutrality policies it has been urging the Federal Communications Commission to adopt as part of its National Broadband Plan, which the agency will deliver to Congress in March. Google said wholesale access will be available on the networks to encourage smaller ISPs to compete with the telephone and cable industries that currently dominate the broadband delivery business.
"We're excited to see how consumers, small businesses, anchor institutions and local governments will take advantage of ultrahigh-speed access to the 'Net," Richard Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel, wrote in a blog post. "In the same way that the transition from dial-up to broadband made possible the emergence of online VOIP [voice over IP] and video and countless other applications, we think that ultrahigh-speed bandwidth will lead to many new innovations, including streaming high-definition video content, remote data storage, distance learning, real-time multimedia collaboration and others that we simply can't imagine yet."
Whitt wrote that Google is asking interested local governments to complete a request for information, which will help it determine where to build. Private enterprise is also invited to submit ideas.
"While it's unlikely that our experiment will be the silver bullet that delivers ultrahigh-speed Internet access to the rest of America, our engineers hope to learn some important things from this project," Whitt wrote. "We can't wait to see what developers and consumers alike can accomplish with access to 1G-bit broadband speeds."
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski issued a statement praising the Google decision: "Big broadband creates big opportunities. This significant trial will provide an American testbed for the next generation of innovative, high-speed Internet apps, devices and services."
The Google initiative also drew widespread praise from a number of public policy advocates.
Markham Erickson, executive director of the Open Internet Coalition, stated: "An ultrafast and open broadband will not only provide a new and exciting platform for the next generation of Internet services and apps, but will hopefully inject new life into the extinct third-party ISP marketplace."
Erickson added, "We hope this will serve as an example to other network operators that the open model should not be feared, but should be emulated. Profit and openness are mistakenly seen to be in conflict; in fact we believe they are synergistic and amplifying."
Gigi Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, called Google's decision "the kind of forward thinking and investment from the private sector that could jump-start Internet technology while helping our economy and giving consumers the experience of a true next-generation network."
At the trade group CCIA (Computer & Communications Industry Association), President and CEO Ed Black said Americans have been in a rut about how to expand broadband and said Google's entry into the last-mile market was good news.
"Some experimentation and new thinking by truly innovative companies, not just legacy providers, is long overdue and welcome," Black said.
"The promise that this new Internet capability would operate committed to robust net neutrality and open access rules is significant. It demonstrates that investment in bringing the Internet to more people does not require compromising the Internet's historic commitment to freedom and openness. Continued investment in broadband infrastructure does not require ending the open access and neutral principles that have allowed content to compete on its merits and new applications and innovations to thrive."