Tapping the Real Power of Google Fiber

The webpage, Google Fiber for Communities starts off by saying, “Google is planning to launch an experiment that we hope will make Internet access better and faster for everyone.” Almost everyone seems to be focusing on faster and fiber and not on better and communities, and I think they are making a big mistake.

Yes, having fast fiber to the home is a great goal, and while there isn’t a lot of fast fiber to the home in the United States, the idea isn’t really all that new or ground breaking. In 2008, PCWorld ran a story about KDDI offering home gigabit broadband for around $50/month. The United States has significantly lagged in broadband.

Some of this is because there is no very little real competition or innovation in the United States telecommunications industry. Instead, the large telecommunications firms are pretty happy keeping things the way they are, and the barriers to entry are so high that it takes either a really large company or a really innovative idea to break through.

Google is a really large company that, while gigabit broadband is not innovative, their approach for marketing it is. They have announced their intention to launch a product and have asked people to compete to become their customers, and the competition has been fierce.

Potential customers have used social media and earned media to advertise for Google. They have lobbied local governments to encourage Google to offer the product in their locale. I live on the outskirts of New Haven, CT, where community activists are working together with the city government on the New Haven Google Fiber Project. Activists are involved to help spread the word. Small businesses, especially those savvy at marketing online have joined forces to help the project, and the Mayor’s office has taken the lead. There is great energy and community around this project and if New Haven becomes a test bed for Google Fiber, it will do great things for the city.

Looking around the country, there are plenty of other similar efforts. Many cities have Fiber Fan pages on Facebook. Grand Rapids, MI has over thirty four thousand fans. Hunstsville, AL has over ten thousand fans. Fresno, CA has over eight thousand fans. Sarasota, FL has nearly seven thousand fans. Columbia, MO has nearly six thousand fans. Anderson, IN has a very impressive effort going on in their community with over forty-four hundred fans. Memphis has forty three hundred fans, edging out the forty-two hundred fans in Madison, WI. Durham, NC has over twenty six hundred members. Austin, TX has about eight hundred, as does Burlington, VT. At last check, there were over 150 fan pages for Google Fiber on Facebook.

Some community is going to be very happy. Others will be disappointed. I’ve worked on many campaigns that I believed would make our communities and our country greater. Too often, my candidate has lost and the energy and community around the campaign dissipated. While I hope that New Haven gets Google Fiber early on, and Google rapidly expands its fiber offering to many other communities, my greater hope is that the communities remain engaged and active, working together to provide better services and better work environments for the twenty first century.

The first round of applications is due on March 26th. I hope everyone gets good applications in and at the same time find ways of keeping their communities engaged and active.