Google's recently-announced fiber-to-the-home experiment (which I estimated could cost the company $750 million or more) looks even sillier in the context of continued announcements by cable operators of faster broadband deployments. As an example, this week brought news that Virgin Media, a large U.K. cable operator, is launching 100 megabit/second service by the end of this year, and also intends to expand its trial of 200 megabits/second service. Virgin's announcements came on top of Shaw Communications (a large Canadian cable operator) news from last week that it would soon test expanding its current 100 megabit/second service to 1 gigabit/second, a 10x increase. And big U.S. cable operators themselves continue deploying "DOCSIS 3.0" equipment to offer ever-faster broadband services.
Google pegged one gigabit as the target for its fiber-to-the-home project, but doesn't the question beg - if cable operators (and telcos) themselves are continuing to improve the speeds of their broadband services to approach 1 gigabit, what is the point of a small, isolated Google experiment? As I pointed out, consumers have benefited from continuous improvements in bandwidth over the years and, even absent net neutrality regulations, enjoy open, unfettered access to all legal content and services. What Google is contributing to the broadband ISP business with its fiber trial remains a complete mystery to me. At some point I have to believe Google shareholders and Wall Street analysts covering the company are going to want more clarity too.
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