Google Fiber and what it (could) mean for Louisville

On September 10th, the mayor of the city of Louisville announced that he is working with Google to bring the famed, and only selectively available, Google Fiber service to the city. For the next few days, tech enthusiasts buzzed with excitement about this prospect, and are all looking forward to the day that they can give their current ISP the heave-ho and proceed to bathe in bandwidth bliss.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with what we know–

Google Fiber is a Google (err, Alphabet) owned internet and television service provider. Currently, their service is available in 3 cities, with 6 more currently listed as “upcoming,” and others (including Louisville) listed as possible cities where the service is available.

The reason for the ambiguity in mentioning these current projects, and possible new potential locations, is because the process to roll out service is long, expensive, and difficult. And it has to be – because that’s what it takes to provide this level of service. Fiber optic cable is delicate and expensive, as it quite literally transmits data at the speed of light, through a series “total internal reflections” all throughout the length of the cable (it’s weird physics stuff). And to then provide a whole city with access requires “thousands of miles” of this precious commodity — which then must be gently buried in the ground, according to federal, state, county, et al.,  regulations. Regulations that make sure that this cable will be protected from the weather, interference from other service providers and their infrastructure, other public utilities and infrastructure, and with conveniently placed access points for creating new nodes for service. And someone has to pay for all of the engineering required to lay this out, get it approved by the local authorities, and then contract the work out in a timely and cost effective manner.

And then there’s the matter of corporate interest lobbyists, in all levels of government, that are absolutely terrified of this level of competition in an otherwise monopoly ruled environment. While the FCC ruling to classify internet as a public utility may change this landscape dramatically, consumers don’t typically have many great choices when it comes to internet service providers. The reason being a lack of innovation and re-investment, due to the never ending search for more corporate shareholder profits. As a result of not having competition, they are content to use outdated infrastructure to provide only par-level service at a price that makes bottom lines look incredibly attractive. But with this level of stout competition, they would be jolted back to reality and have to substantially increase their definition of par-level service — which is going to cost them money as well, either in re-investments or loss of customer base, or both.

Given all of these factors, it really takes a mega company with resources (or perhaps just some wise investors playing the long-game economically, rather than for short term gains) to finance and put all of this into place. With so many obstacles, this process to get from a “possible city” to a “fiber city” is going to take months. Literally, months. And even if/when it is here, you may still not be able to get service if there is not enough demand in your particular part of town – as service is distributed per “fiber-hoods” based off of demand, ensuring that each expansion is cost effective. But the general opinion, of those who have experienced 1 Gigabit per second up and down, is that there is absolutely no going back. Currently, the fastest residential internet package available from Time Warner Cable in Louisville is 50 Megabits per second down and 5 Megabits up. Google Fiber provides a level of service that would equal having 20 separate lines of this service in one connection. And Google Fiber will cost about the same per month as the introductory package of one of those Time Warner lines of service, with Google’s service price remaining stable. Oh, and it would take 200 of these lines to have the same amount of upload traffic that you can have with one Google Fiber line.

These numbers may not mean much to you, and, if so, that’s ok because you may not ever need or use this much bandwidth. What’s important is that you will finally have a legitimate choice, for fantastic service at a reasonable rate, with terms that are straightforward and not meant to trap you into paying more every 6 months for services you may not need or want.

But if you are excited as I am, this will be huge for techies and businesses alike, as what corporation wouldn’t seriously consider moving their HQ to a city that has this level of infrastructure for high speed data transmission… For a monthly price of one nice dinner out for two people.

Please Santa, bring me Google Fiber for Christmas next year… Or at least show me some fiber being put in the ground, and then bring service the year after.

I’ll wait, patiently…. Intently, with wide eyes…

But patiently.