Google Fiber puts the ISPs to shame

Now that the traditional Internet providers are in Google's cross-hairs, will they finally upgrade their decrepit networks?

As I predicted, Google's fiber experiment in Kansas City is fast succeeding. As the rollout pushes forward, it's educating the general population on what real broadband Internet service is like. If that weren't enough, Google is tossing in goodies like HD television channels, DVRs, tablets, and cloud storage for seemingly free.

Make no mistake, Google is not just embarrassing the competition -- it's humiliating its rivals. It's like Muhammad Ali vs. Napoleon Dynamite in a cage match. Some reports say that Time Warner, the incumbent ISP in the area, is going door to door, asking customers if they're satisfied with their service. Time Warner can't compete with Google at this game -- Time Warner has worked hard at not investing in its infrastructure for years, leaving the carrier bereft of options other than to watch helplessly as its customer base dwindles. Time Warner has two choices: upgrade its infrastructure to match Google's or bail out entirely. 

[ Also on InfoWorld: Google Fiber must succeed | Google in talks with Dish to create wireless network | Get the latest practical data center info and news with InfoWorld's Data Center newsletter. ]

Now that Google Fiber is a reality and houses are connected, we see pleas like this one from a poor soul stuck in metropolitan Boston with a Comcast cable connection that would be an embarrassment in rural Romania. This is the sad reality of broadband in the United States, especially in the major cities.

It could be argued that the big ISPs deliver better service in rural areas (the ones they actually reach) due to the lower concentration of subscribers, as well as the nature of DSL and cable plants. This starves more densely populated areas of reasonable bandwidth -- resulting in exactly the situation described by the disgruntled Comcast customer in Boston. Business-class services may be less impacted, but residential broadband is simply terrible in many of the population centers of the United States. That's just depressing.

The reasons for this have been widely discussed for years: There's little to no competition in these markets, and thus very little motivation for the incumbent ISPs to improve their service or their networks. I mean, what else are you going to do? Where else are you going to go?

You might have the opportunity to select DSL over cable, but if you want TV service, you wind up paying much more in combined costs. You might give wireless networks a try, but not if you want to do anything more than general-purpose Internet activities. Netflix, gaming, and a plethora of other activities aren't going to fly on those networks due to a combination of factors, including latency, bandwidth, and data caps and fees.

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