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Google Fiber divides users into 'the fast' and 'the furious'

Google's fiber push is making the 'have nots' mad. That's a good thing.

April 27, 2013 06:42 AM ET

Computerworld - Every day is a beautiful day in the fiberhood.

The chosen ones in Kanas City, Austin and Provo are getting Internet connections that are 100 times faster than average at very low prices, thanks to Google's Fiber project.

Unfortunately, you and I don't live there. So we're stuck in a bandwidth backwater.

As Internet trolls like to say: U mad, bro?

If you don't live in one of these cities, you should be mad. Google's Fiber project demonstrates that very high Internet speeds are possible and nobody except Google has the vision or courage to make it happen.

One Internet bandwidth provider has admitted the ability to provide much faster speeds to consumers, but has decided not to. Time Warner Cable CFO Irene Esteves said in February that Time Warner is perfectly capable of "delivering 1 gigabit, 10 gigabit-per-second" Internet connectivity to consumers, but that the company just doesn't "see the need of delivering that to consumers." I believe Esteves' statement accurately represents the thinking of most existing Internet providers.

Now are you mad?

The issue isn't really that consumers don't want faster Internet speeds. And it's not that cable providers don't care.

It's really a chicken-and-egg problem.

Why your Internet is so slow

Average U.S. Internet speeds rank 12th or 13th in the world, which is pathetic for the country that invented the Internet and contains Silicon Valley, Hollywood and data-hungry Wall Street and a $15 trillion annual GDP.

Other countries are pulling away. A Sony-backed service recently announced 2Gbps download speeds in Tokyo for $51 per month -- twice the speed of Google Fiber and 200 times faster than the U.S. average and at a lower price than Google Fiber.

Now are you mad?

Gigabit fiber Internet access is affordable, but only if everybody gets it. But everybody isn't going to get it unless it's affordable.

And that's why we can't have nice things.

At least, that's what Esteves really means when she says that users don't want faster speeds. Providing consumers with the faster speeds Time Warner currently provides to some business customers is very expensive because only a few customers pay for it all.

It's not that Time Warner Cable's customers don't want fast Internet. They don't want Time Warner Cable's price for fast Internet.

However, if you lay fiber to every home in a city, and if a majority of homes sign up to use it, the cost can come way down. And that's what Google Fiber is all about. It's about making a bet on the future and investing heavily to bootstrap widespread use and high demand.

What you need to know about Google Fiber



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