Google Fiber’s greatest success -- In Perspective

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 9:20pm
Brian Santo

The original digital divide was the disparity between broadband haves and have-nots. But even as more people gain access to broadband with government and industry help, the digital divide is evolving into something worse: a chasm between those with access to a boggling amount of bandwidth and those with access to very little.

Google and AT&T can’t be blamed for creating a new digital divide simply for introducing gigabit services. But they can be blamed for introducing gigabit services in a manner that guarantees that the new digital divide is going to get worse before it gets better – if it gets better.

People want faster Internet access at more affordable rates, wherever they happen to live, and the market, which has little real competition, has failed to deliver.

So along came Google with the stated intent of using Google Fiber as an incentive for everyone else to compete with each other. Really? Did anyone, even Google, expect that any ISP other than the ones competing directly with Google Fiber would feel incentivized to start offering their own gigabit services? Ah, but what about AT&T? With the lowest bandwidth service among the biggest ISP/ MVPDs, AT&T was going to have to upgrade its infrastructure eventually. And so it expanded its network build, called Project VIP, to include Gigapower, mimicking Google Fiber’s greatest success.

No, not deploying gigabit broadband.

Google’s biggest success was getting customers to redline themselves, while inducing cities that want Google Fiber to compete with each other to see who will go farthest to weaken and/or jettison regulations that involve providing services, and building and operating infrastructure.

It's hard to tell what's more galling: the cynicism required to get people to redline themselves, or the docility with which they do it.

You’d think Google’s and AT&T’s competitors would complain about the way those two are cherrypicking only the most affluent potential subscribers, but then again, AT&T and Verizon redlined fairly extensively when building U-verse and FiOS, and the few people who complained back then were mostly ignored.

Yet redlining is an odious practice. It means only the most affluent get the benefits of real competition, and it will mean that only the affluent will get the full benefits of broadband.

If that’s the market we’re creating, that’s nothing to be proud of.


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