Google is expanding its rollout of Google Fiber, finally bringing America’s Internet up to speed (no pun intended) with other countries around the world. Amazing right? Well, If Google Fiber successfully kills existing Internet Service Providers, it may very well control the Internet.

Google continues to roll out its ambitious Google Fiber project to a few US cities, aiming to bring the fastest Internet and TV connection in the United States. With speeds of 1 Gbps, it is 100 times faster than the average American’s internet speed and 20 times faster than Verizon Fios. The Google Fiber project is still in its earliest stages. Late last year, Google built its high speed network in the two Kansas cities (in Kansas and Missouri). Google calls this an “experiment” and is still learning how to best install a physical network and then market the service. Just recently, Google announced its plan to move outside of Kansas City into Olathe, Kansas. Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google, cites unacceptably slow US internet speeds as inspiration for the project. He believes Google Fiber will create the infrastructure the country needs to once again be on top. This is perhaps THE MOST AMBITIOUS project Google has ever begun. Most of it’s projects involve developing apps and software that once completed, can be immediately released worldwide at once. For example, Google Maps, Gmail, Docs, and other virtual products only need to be developed once before they are instantly available to a worldwide market. With Google Fiber however, Google actually needs to do the work of physically running the fiber through the ground to every home that subscribes to it. This can get expensive. Goldman Sachs estimates that it will cost $70 Billion just to cover half the country. Because of the laborious and expensive nature of creating this network, it will be a long time before Fiber is available to you and me (assuming you don’t live in Kansas).

Let’s assume that two decades down the line, Google Fiber now covers the country and everyone uses this state-of-the-art technology. Now what? Sure, it will be nice to download an entire movie in a second. Sure, you will never have to wait for anything, and the term “loading” will effectively be eliminated from language because everything will be instant. This is all great, and I do want America to be the leader in all things technology and Internet related. I want America to have the best network infrastructure that can allow individuals and small businesses to do better. But will this near monopoly provide Google the opportunity to unfairly take advantage of its customers?

Sidenote: Let’s not forget how Google paid a $7 Million settlement earlier this month because their Street View cars illegally obtained personal data from local wifi networks.

Google already controls what we see and find on the Internet (through search) and how we browse the Internet (through Chrome). These feats alone has made Google synonymous with the term Internet in many people’s minds. Now, if Google can scale this project and own people’s access to the Internet, they essentially become the Internet and everything Internet related. Concentrating the power of the Internet (which by nature should be free and dispersed) into the hands of one organization is a bit unnerving.

I think this fear is rational, but this is only a very early warning. This project is extremely expensive and time consuming. The chances of it succeeding in the next few decades is still hard to judge, and many of Google’s ventures have failed such as Google Reader (which it will shut down in July 1, 2013). If Google does come close to scaling the project up from Kansas to the United States, regulatory controls may be put in place to limit Google’s power and protect consumers. In addition, other competitors may start building a network that rivals Google’s in due time. All are ways to stop Google from becoming a crazy control freak.

All in all, I’m not too worried. Though total control is unlikely, these initial plans of providing the fastest internet ever has me slightly skeptical of Google’s true intentions, while others are jumping for joy.

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons.

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons.



3 thoughts on “Total Internet Control in Sight? Google Expanding Plans for Fiber

  1. I think this kind of project would be an incredible technological feat, but may hurt Google’s reputation in the process. Google’s unofficial motto “don’t be evil” seems to be as ironic, given the lawsuit and all the privacy issues with Google+. Business Insider’s article from last May articulates how Google has slowly turned its back on its motto through insistent pressure to use its services (like being forced to sign up for Google+ when you get a Gmail account) to shady business deals (like buying up piknik, an online photo-editing application that was making some profit, and shutting it down). With all these issues coming to light, I wouldn’t be too eager to sign up for another Google service before reading the fine print.

    Some people fear that Google is becoming too big and pervasive, and I agree that though it may seem that way, the actual free market won’t allow Google to completely dominate. I can’t recall a single company being a sole source/provider of a service, maintaing a complete vertical integration of a product/service with no other competitors. Apple is a fierce competitor of Google, battling with them over apps and whatnot, so it can keep Google in check. However, if Google can achieve being both a physical provider of internet and also be a presence on the web as well (as it already is), then there is a potential that will have that all-purpose pervasive feel to the company.

    This makes me question how our relationship to the internet would be like if Google does succeed. Boyd’s point in one of her works about how teens go where there friends are for social networking could be applicable to Google users. If enough people switch to, say Google+, would that make other social networking sites obsolete? I like how we read that certain demographics used certain SNS’s, such as how the majority of MySpace users are Hispanic and there is a more female presence with SNS’s. Looking up some stats on Google+, I found that it is an upcoming SN platform for men between 18-29, with higher incomes than those of Facebook users according to Huffington Post article. This information is a bit dated, (from 2011), and I would like to see some more demographics regarding current Google+ users. Also, if everyone used some sort of Google service, would privacy be an issue? I know that I wouldn’t fully trust Google after that settlement, and the fact that its expanding at this rate makes me a bit wary.

    So in theory, if Google’s product is as good as it says it is, it could revolutionize the way we use the Internet. But in reality, there will probably be some other internet providers and thus not fall into this Google-driven world.

    Business Insider article – “Why Everyone Thinks Google Has Lost Its Way And Become Evil”,
    Huffington Post article – “Facebook vs. Google+ Searchers: How Their Demographics Differ”

  2. Pingback: Total Internet Control in Sight? Google Expanding Plans for Fiber | Libatech

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