Google joins FCC chair in waving the muni broadband flag at incumbents

21 February 2014 by Steve Blum
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Call it motivation.

Google is stoking the fires of gigabit demand and keeping the heat on major cable and telephone companies with its announcement that it’s talking to 34 more cities about fiber-to-the-home projects. That’s completely consistent with a strategy of goading incumbents into upgrades that they’d prefer not to do. Whether it’s the also the first step in a national roll out remains to be seen.

There’s no actual promise to build, as Google makes very clear

We hope to bring Google Fiber to every city on this list, but there are a few circumstances that might make it tough and even impossible to build our Fiber network in a city…If a city doesn’t want to proceed with us and chooses not to complete their checklist, we won’t be able to bring them Google Fiber. There are also some physical characteristics of a city that might make it really complex for us to build Google Fiber.

A decision not to build, though, wouldn’t mean the end of competitive pressure in those cities. Google says if it doesn’t go ahead…

We would share what we learned in our studies with city leaders and we hope they’d be able to use that information to explore other options for bringing super high speed broadband to their residents.

The options include municipal broadband projects, of course. Which puts Google on the same page as FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, who also threatened to back publicly-operated competition when he relaunched the network neutrality battle on the same day as Google’s announcement. You can argue the merits of muni FTTH business models, but there’s no doubting that Google and Wheeler see it as a wonderfully big stick to go along with soft talk.