The advent of the commercial Internet in 1995 was a big deal, a major transformative shift. Now we’re going through another, quite different, but equally enormous shift: Fiber.
Asian and Northern European countries are upgrading to fiber connectivity. One strand of fiber has thousands of times more bandwidth capacity than any of the last generation technologies like DSL, cable, satellite and wireless. It is likely to be useful for more than 50 years; it allows for equal uploads to downloads, and it’s highly scalable. We’ll see enormous future increases in bandwidth using fiber through just upgrading lasers and electronics, once the fiber is in place. The productivity potential of fiber is as big a change to peoples’ lives as electrification, and as important as the advent of the Internet. : The kind of literacy we will treasure in the future will have more to do with images than it does now. We’ll be doing different things, not just doing the same things faster.
And that’s why the Google Fiber announcement today was exciting. Kansas City residents will have a gigabit to their houses. 1000 megabits per second. I loved watching the Google guys get all excited about this. (“Wasn’t that cool?” Milo Medin said. He was clearly having the time of his life.) No caps, no overage charges, no scarcity – just incredible access.
Several key themes from today’s announcement.
TV is central. Although there was a good demo of how much faster uploads and downloads of online video and pictures will be with a gig, it felt almost obligatory. The emotion kicks in with TV. Americans are watching more TV than ever, and the pitch is that you’ll be able to watch 100s of fiber channels and tens of thousands of VOD offerings over your Google Fiber connection. Premium movie channels? Extra. They didn’t talk about sports. They did say you’d get the “networks,” and they’re not offering elaborate tiers – it’s all one bundle (save the premium movie channels). : Big pitch for lots of HD storage of shows (500 hours) and the ability to record eight shows at a time. Obvious pride about making a tablet available as part of the package. “Exclusive local content” as part of the overal sale. And an endlessly repeated promise to “keep getting better,” which did make me wonder whether they’re facing limitations on programming they can resell.
Pricing is great. The TV bundle includes a lot of bells and whistles – devices – connections, TV box, storage box, all kinds of things – and you can get it plus the blazing Internet connection for $120/month. : Naked Internet access: : $70/month. : One-time chance to get 5Mb down/1 up for free, if you pay the construction fee. : The second and third of these packages are great deals, hands down, unbelievable. The TV bundle, at $120, is a great deal IF the consumer feels he/she is getting all the favorite shows. Contracts are for two years for TV, one year for naked Internet, 7 years (I think) for the free 5MB down. Now, those prices can go up – but at the moment, these are deals that no one can match.
Rollout is the prize.: For this to work, they have to get great adoption. The TV product will push that in a way they probably thought naked Internet access won’t. They’ve rolled together a bunch of ways to drive people to get service to their neighborhoods: : (1) a prize: the neighborhoods that get critical mass (defined as 40-80 households, I believe) together first to indicate interest (with a $10 commitment pledge) will get service first, (2) public sentiment: neighborhoods will also be bringing gig speeds to anchor institutions like hospitals, schools, and public safety for free (I loved that part), (3) they’ll do demonstrations showing what it’s like to use fiber (the World’s Fair approach) so that people get excited and (4) they’ll make all of this visible – so you can see your neighborhood competing against other neighborhoods. All of this is very smart.
The public message was the best part: : We work best when we work together. Let’s do this for ALL of Kansas City – rich, poor, public and private institutions. Standing ovation for the mayors. Real pride: No other city has this!
It’s a good day for the fiber story in America. Very disruptive.