Thursday, April 25, 2013

Provo Fiber

Google Fiber is coming to Provo, Utah. That is really great news for Provo. I've been there a few times and I like the town. It's much smaller than Salt Lake City, but there is still plenty to do around town. There is also a beautiful lake to visit from time to time right next to town. Salt Lake is not that far from Provo, so I can still hit Ikea and Costco if need be.

I'm actually thinking about moving to Provo for a number of reasons, but the big one is that when Google Fiber lights up, the business in the town will boom. Kinda like a gold rush, except that there is no limit to data transmissions since the technology keeps getting better. Just to give you an idea about the lack of limits, last year, someone set a new record (that has probably already been broken by now) for data transmission. They transmitted 25 terabits in a second using graphene optical modulators. The trend is that tech is only going to get better.

The deal between Google and Provo is similar to the one in Austin and Kansas City with one major difference. Provo already has a network and Google will buy it for $1. The city will continue to pay the bonds that were used to finance the build out. Google will maintain the network and provide 5mbs to every resident for free for 7 years. Anyone who wants Gigabit fiber will pay $70 month. There is a $300 hookup fee. That's it.

I know something of what can be done on a 20mbs connection. I have one. At least I will have one for about another day. Then I'm switching to Centurylink for a 5mbs connection. I'm just tired of playing the 'loyalty" game with Comcast. That is where they set me up on the promotion for 6 months and then I call as soon as our bill goes up to negotiate a new promotion.

This time, that game is not going to work. I"m on a two year promotion and the fees went up 25% in one year. Comcast is a private monopoly and acts like one. 

I know that I can stream video and audio on 5mbs and 20mbs per second. But on Gigabit, I haven't the slightest idea what kinds of applications are in store. I think that entire new industries will emerge with speeds like that.

What I can't fathom is why Comcast or any of the other ISPs want to prevent that kind of speed from becoming the norm. Maybe they're worried that there won't be any justification for their lofty prices or annual rate increases. Maybe, they won't be able to justify the astronomical salaries paid to the directors and the CEOs that makes a summer home in Spain a reality for them.

Google actually gets it. They understand the customer better than Comcast and Centurylink. They're not afraid to expose their business to competition because they know that will only make them a better company. Google is part of the Data Liberation Front, an organization dedicated to making it easy to get your data from whatever resource you use on Google properties. You have a blog? You can download all your articles in one nice tarball or zip file. Want your email backed up? Hook up Thunderbird with IMAP and you'll have everything.

I think that Google uses open standards to make it easier to innovate, but they also know that their customers could leave anytime they find something better offered by someone else. Maintaining awareness that their customers are not in some comfy lock-in due to technology is what drives Google to do better.

Sure, Google Fiber provides 1Gbs, and maybe for awhile, they'll be the only game in town in Provo at that speed. But they know that others are out there to provide the same speed if they want to compete against Google. Time Warner, Comcast, Verizon and Centurylink can all try if they want to. I doubt they will bother. There is so much customer antipathy towards the incumbents that even if the incumbents can meet or beat Google, customers may not want to go back.
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