Friday, February 21, 2014

Googling More Cities With Fiber

On February 19, Google announced on its official blog that it has invited cities in nine metro areas around the U.S. – 34 cities total – to work with the company on bringing Google Fiber to those new markets. It is encouraging that Google is starting the process of expanding fiber to as many as 34 new locales, even though the company acknowledges it is unlikely that Google Fiber will actually enter all of these markets. I expect that the lessons from Google’s other fiber projects in Kansas City, Austin, and Provo will help Google succeed in bringing more ultra-fast networks to still more localities. 
The main challenges Google will confront in deploying its technology involve access to existing infrastructure and infrastructure maps, and expediting construction permits. Of course, other providers, whether cable, telephone companies, or wireless operators have always confronted these obstacles too – probably to a greater degree. 
Local governments should facilitate Google’s fiber deployment by reforming their processes, if necessary, to remove any unnecessary barriers to market entry. It is important, however, that whatever treatment or advantages a municipality offers to Google be offered to all other market competitors. As I said in a blog last October, providers like Verizon, Comcast, and any others should be able to “avail themselves of the same local streamlined, expedited processes available to Google.” And the same obligations that apply to these other private sector providers, such as requirements for build-out, should apply to Google. 
Google’s decision to expand its broadband networks to new cities is a welcome development. Communities certainly can benefit from high-capacity broadband facilities as consumer demand for faster Internet continues to grow. Additionally, Google's entry will increase competition in the markets it enters, and more competition is a good thing. 
As long as Google is not favored over similarly situated broadband providers, the Google Fiber initiative to build out ultra high-speed broadband networks is positive. And if Google's initiative serves to spur local governments to reform their regulatory and permitting processes to facilitate easier entry and network build-outs, this is surely positive too.