Consumers like having a choice. They like to make their own decisions. And in today’s media-driven culture, it is not surprising, then, that a lack of choice amongst Internet service providers has left many consumers at odds with their current options. According to a 2014 report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), nearly three-quarters of all U.S. households have a broadband Internet connection. Yet, while the number of Internet users increases, satisfaction with the telecommunications sector overall has decreased and Internet service providers ranked last on a list of 43 industries. Add to this the fact that super-fast Internet has already been laid out nationwide but large telecom companies won’t use it, calling the networks unfair government competition and leaving today’s Internet speed at an average of 9 mbps (megabits per second) – which is slow – it quickly becomes obvious that this current state of affairs is leaving many wanting for more.
Enter Google Fiber. Google, and more recently, AT&T, have begun to take steps towards providing a solution (if not a disruption) to this intensifying issue. Hot on the heels of Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable, as well as the FCC’s announcement to overhaul their net neutrality rules, Google Fiber addresses the need for competition in the broadband services industry.
“Google is working on the next generation of Internet application software that requires better bandwidth,” says Rich Greenfield, a media analyst with the telecom research company, BTIG. “So they are helping to enable that infrastructure.”
Fiber optic networks are the fastest form of broadband and seem poised to take over the telecommunications industry as the U.S. moves away from traditional copper-based technologies like DSL and cable. Its ability to offer faster speeds from anywhere between 500 mbps to 1 gbps (gigabits per seconds) over longer distances has contributed to the nation’s growing infatuation with the technology. Although Google Fiber is currently offered in only three cities (Austin, TX, Kansas City, MO, and Provo, UT), future plans seek to expand in another 34 cities including Portland, OR and Charlotte, NC.
For the country that invented the Internet, the expansion of high-speed fiber optic networks could not come as better news. The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development recently released a list of median broadband speeds from across the world – the U.S. comes is 21st, coming in behind countries like Denmark, Belgium, and the Slovak Republic.
World leaders are also taking note of the power of fiber optic technology by using it as a way to close digital and economic divides in their countries. In March of this year, Colombia started work installing fiber optic Internet that will reach 96% of the country. Working under the guidance of Diego Molano, the Colombian minister for information and communications technology, as well as knowledge imparted by companies like SAP, Oracle and Facebook, Colombians have helped 2.5 million rise out of poverty in the last three years.
While it remains to be seen whether or not Google’s foray into the fiber world will be one of longevity or simple experimentation, one thing is for sure – promoting healthy competition in what has long been a stagnant broadband industry will only serve to offer more choices to consumers and motivate other infrastructure providers to improve their quality and service.