Government Technology
By Ulf Wolf: Citizen engagement and responsibility in the digital age.

How Much is Too Much?

August 6, 2012 By

According to a Reuters Report, Google Fiber—a new division of the search giant—will begin rolling out 1 Gigabit Broadband service in Kansas City, Missouri as early as September of this year.

According to the report, Google’s Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette said that “Access is the next frontier that needs to be opened. We're going to do it profitably. That is our plan.”

He then—and quite accurately—noted that broadband Internet speeds leveled out around the year 2000, and added, “We are at a crossroad. We at Google believe there is no need to wait.”

To wait for what? Presumably, there is no need to wait for the rest of the world to realize that 5 Megabits per second (which is the average U.S. broadband access speed) is considered slow these days, especially in countries like South Korea where 50 Megabits per second connections is the rule rather than the exception; and also in many Swedish cities.

Although Google will offer an Internet Only plan at $70 per month (for fiber to the desktop and 1 Gigabit download speeds), they are more focused on bundling this sizeable bandwidth offer with a LOT of content.

According to the article, Google Fiber's ultra-high-speed connections and television offerings are aimed at surpassing those of current providers, allowing users to search live channels, Netflix, YouTube, recorded shows and tens of thousands of hours of on-demand programming, all to include more than 100 networks and for a cost of $120 a month for a package of TV, 1 gigabyte per second Internet speeds and 1 terabyte of cloud storage.

The package will include popular networks such as owned by major media companies such as Comcast Corp's NBC Universal, Discovery Communications and Viacom Inc. Premium movie networks are available from Liberty Media's Starz for an extra fee.

However—although negotiations are underway—as it stands, the offer will excludes several major TV names, such as News Corp's Fox cable channels; Time Warner networks like CNN, TNT and TBS, as well as Walt Disney Co cable channels like ESPN and Disney children networks.

This is where Ben Schachter, an analyst with Macquarie Research weighs in on the offer: “They need to be able to offer something that is everything people have now and more. People are going to have high expectations for this. The worst thing they can do is come out and disappoint.”

More is Beauty

George Orwell’s 1984 wreaks havoc with the English language, with slogans such as “War is Peace,” “Hate is Love,” et cetera.

Whereas, in my opinion, and most of the time, less is indeed more, the new 1984-style mantra seems to be that “More is Beauty.” The more the better. More, more, more.

Is more really better?

The Google Fiber offering will include such features as the ability to record eight TV shows at a time and store up to 500 hours of high definition programming in the cloud. User can then choose to use a tablet or smartphone as a voice-activated remote control. Google will also offer Nexus 7 tablet with the Google TV app to early users of the service.

Looking around me I notice a curious trend: the need to own. People seem to think that the path to cooking better—to cite one example—is to buy, and own lots of cookbooks. Not, mind you, to own and study and apply these cookbooks. To own them. To pay money for them and then store them (prominently displayed) on a nice kitchen shelf.

The same seems to be true of movies: We love to own hundreds and hundreds of DVDs that we never will have time to watch. But the owning seems to satisfy some fulfillment need within.

So what if I can record and cloud-store eight TV shows simultaneously, none of which I’ll never have time to watch, being far too busy deciding on the next eight TV shows to record and store (read: own).

What on earth am I going to do with all this more?

I think it’s a fair question, and one which I have no real answer for.

At this stage in my life my mantra is actually: less, less, less. The letting go of the need to own, own, own.

I do realize, however, that such a direction does not necessarily play into the hands of Google’s business plan, whose biggest possible crime (according to the expert quoted) would seem to be to not offer enough more.

Sad really.

That said, yes, I’d go for 1 Gigabit Internet, especially at $70 a month (which is what I’m paying for 10 Megabits right now). That one hundred lane Infobahn would certainly ensure that Skype runs flawlessly, and that I’ll always have High Definition Video available for my Netflix indulgence.

Then again, do I really need it? No, not really.

The Future

Whether or not consumers will embrace the new offerings remains to be seen. But Google officials said they are confident Kansas City will be a showcase of success for a larger rollout.

Says Kevin Lo, General Manager of Google Access, “Google is a very different company. And this is not a short-term project.”

Should this pan out, and should Google Access (which seems to be the name for the new fiber service) succeed, I would not want to be in cable company shoes (nor in phone company DSL shoes), for they may very well find themselves on the endangered species list.

Perhaps the future is fiber to every desk, carrying all the digital we’ll ever need: Internet, television, telephone, tele-you-fill-in-the-blank. And perhaps that future will be known as Google Access.

Google seems to be pretty good at what they decide to achieve.


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