Google has hyped the gig Frontier CEO complains. Duh.

4 August 2014 by Steve Blum
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The hare provokes the tortoise.

Google’s campaign to vex incumbent broadband providers is a stunning success, at least judging by the thoroughly vexed comments Frontier Communication’s CEO Maggie Wilderotter made to her board. According to a story in the Oregonian, she slammed Google for, um, creating unrest amongst Frontier’s customers…

“Today it’s about the hype, because Google has hyped the gig,” said Wilderotter, in Portland this week for a meeting of her company’s board. She said Google is pitching something that’s beyond the capacity of many devices, with very few services that could take advantage of such speeds, and confusing customers in the process.

Bingo. Google wants to crank up the pressure on incumbents to upgrade networks, and it’s doing it by raising expectations with a simple concept: a gig is good. People get that. Whether they need it or not, whether they know what to do with it or not, they now know, thanks to Google, that a gig is the gold standard.

It’s a problem for incumbents because it puts them in the unfamiliar position of being on the defensive. Which makes for supremely uncomfortable marketing pitches: our stuff is adequate. Particularly for you. Unfortunately for Frontier’s customers, not to mention shareholders, that’s exactly the tack Wilderotter is taking…

Frontier’s pitch: Better prices for more modest speeds. For most people, Wilderotter said, 10 to 12 megabits per second will be perfectly adequate for at least the next couple years. She said Frontier is upgrading its networks in rural communities where it doesn’t offer FiOS to meet that benchmark.

It doesn’t matter that Wilderotter is correct – an honest 10 Mbps will satisfy most people’s needs for a year or two – because all that matters is meeting expectations. And Google is driving those expectations. With intent.