February 10, 2010 By Andy Opsahl
Google sparked a competition among local governments in the market for high-end technology when the company announced Wednesday, Feb. 10, it would select a small number of American cities or counties in which to deploy experimental fiber-to-the-home networks with speeds over 1 gigabit per second.
That's 100 times faster than what most Americans receive, according to Google, which seeks requests for information (RFI) from interested local governments by March 26. "We'll offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people," Google said in a blog post.
The networks will function as testing sites for determining what applications developers can concoct with ultra-high bandwidth. Additionally the company said it would test new ways to build broadband networks and promised to share its findings with the rest of the industry.
The networks will be open to several service providers, meaning that competing vendors -- like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon -- could theoretically play a role in the networks.
Municipal broadband analyst Craig Settles expects the move to be a game-changer in terms of national expectations of broadband speeds.
"Google has money. Google has market presence. By virtue of that, their intent has to be taken seriously because they have the capability of delivering what they say they're going to deliver," Settles said.
He thinks it could influence attitudes at the FCC about minimally acceptable speeds and its efforts to cover the nation with broadband. Given that the FCC's National Broadband Plan is due Feb. 17, it seems clear that potential changes in the agency's speed baselines will only come in the distant future.
Local governments submitting RFIs must do so via the interactive response forms on the company's Web site. Google encourages local governments to persuade nongovernmental community entities to submit concurrent RFIs to bolster the RFIs submitted by their partnering governments.