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Google: The ISP?

April 1, 2010

We all know that Google has its foot in every door, from email to blogging to mobile platforms.  Well, digital domination doesn’t seem to be enough for the $40.5 billion (according to the always reliable Wikipedia) company. Recently Google announced plans to outfit a guinea pig community with fiber optic cables offering internet speeds of about 100x faster than what most internet users currently use.

1,100 communities jumped at the opportunity to become “Google Town.” The community chosen has nothing to lose: it was received state of the art infrastructure and access to Google’s newest tech experiments.  Only one will be chosen and the winning town won’t be announced for quite a while.

I understand what the community has to gain, but what does Google stand to gain? They will invest incredible sums of money into creating its own ISP, but for no clear fiscal gain (other than perhaps world domination).  Google will get to test out the fiber optics, but it already uses the technology on its own campus, so couldn’t the company just keep it internal?  Gmail and Google search would be the default for all users of the Google service provider, but that’s a small gain, certainly not one large enough to justify such a large investment.

Google is a “one trick pony” in that nearly all its profits come from search.  Every other foray has yielded much less.  As a self proclaimed tech nerd, I appreciate Google’s willingness to experiment.  It seems to be a company with more than profits as its goal.  However, I still don’t trust it.  Why is the company willing to pour money into projects that just won’t generate revenue?  Maybe I’m too cynical, but it really sounds like Google is trying to take over the world and become Big Brother.

I guess, no matter the cost of the project, Google is such a large company, the investment will expand Google’s foothold further and increase reliance on Google’s products.  Particularly for the first and following guinea pig communities.  It also would be good for people in the long run.  Currently, many communities are locked into using the only available internet provider, which might charge higher prices.  By increasing the competition, the consumers win (Micro 101).  Even if the Google ISP doesn’t take off, it could incite startups to try to step in and make a dollar.  Currently, the government has announced plans to do just that, but it is prohibitively expensive, so the private sector (including Google) may have to jump in.

Despite my cynicism, I’d love to be Google’s guinea pig.  It makes awesome products and seems to be a company with a soul.  Though Google-Town is in the future, I’m excited to see what Google has to offer next.

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