By: Brenda J. Trainor
Being in California, we often think of ourselves as trendsetters, setting the course for new and cutting edge innovations in the field of technology. After all, California is the home to the Silicon Valley, and home to Apple and HP and all those cool companies doing cool things ... companies like Google. So weren’t you surprised when Google chose Kansas City to deploy its gigabit internet service? After all, this is a technology that is positioned to change the way we think about what data networks can do for society -- do you think of Kansas City as the cutting-edge kind of place that will nurture innovation and invention? Do they “think different” in Kansas City?
Since the first big announcement of Google fiber was made, Google has subsequently announced that they will be expanding their super-cool network to communities near Kansas City, and then they announced that they would also start offering the same ultra-high speed fiber service to Provo, Utah and Austin, Texas. Now Austin clearly has a higher “coolness” factor than anything in Kansas or Missouri, but what about all us cool people in California -- when do we get this paradigm-shifting network?
So why is the Google Fiber network so cool? Simply because it is bigger and better than your average broadband telecom network. With gigabit speed, this network will be about 100 times faster than what you get from any good network here in California. Imagine that with this speed you can download a movie while sending a text message, monitoring an EBay auction on your Android, while talking on the speaker phone, and having the kids playing a video game with other kids in Australia. Google will offer combined voice, video, and data services on the network along with all sorts of other goodies -- like a terabyte of cloud storage, and huge DVR capacity so you and your family members will never miss a show they want to watch whenever they want, and enough household intelligence that you can route the data, voice, and video, including all your pictures and home videos, to multiple devices in your household. TVs, phones, pads, pods, and gaming devices will be bustling with information... in Kansas. But not here in California.
With this kind of speed and network capacity and the ways in which Google Fiber will alter household information technology use, imagine what could be possible for businesses. Admittedly, big businesses and institutions might already have gigabit capacity with direct fiber links and very expensive services; but it is small and medium sized businesses that stand to gain the most from the advanced capacity possible with a gigabit network. Making advanced high-speed services affordable and accessible to community businesses has the potential to truly offer a new paradigm to the way we do business -- the advantages of communicating with advanced network intelligence and faster and greater capacity might enable mobile shopping, targeted marketing, easier delivery, more secure and efficient inventory control, and perhaps all new ways of engaging in commerce and conducting business without any cost prohibitions.
The key to making a gigabit network a reality is to examine the infrastructure. Laying fiber is in fact a physical activity and the integrity of the network is established with its foundation. Getting the network built is thus the first key to economic development with the potential of a new network. Google is obviously starting out small and in measured doses... but what can be done to encourage the deployment of advanced infrastructure in our backyard?
Wired magazine recently published an article titled “Why Your City Should Compete With Google’s Super-Speed Internet” (see wired.com, 05.28.13 by Klint Finley) that suggests that some municipal networks have been built that offer the kinds of speeds that Google is offering, and that public networks that can compete with incumbent providers may be stimulating investment and competition with the added advantage of serving all portions of a community -- the low income areas, the less dense areas and all the public and educational institutions as well. Innovative cities who look to deploy advanced networks can be magnets for businesses and their employees who want to have access to sophisticated and affordable services for both their professional and domestic information needs.
It should come as no surprise that the City of Austin recently announced that they will be hiring a new city staff position: an “innovation director” whose chief requirement is to be a creative thinker, and who will serve to open the door to invite new ideas for that government to meet the needs of those it serves and to integrate technology to help deliver the goods. Remember, Austin got Google Fiber to come to their town already served by AT&T and Time Warner; it seems like the innovative thinking has taken hold already.
What will it take to get that kind of innovative thinking started here in the San Gabriel Valley? Which will be the first cool city around here to hire an innovation director, and which city will be the first to get Gigabit speeds to its businesses and residents? ...And why hasn’t it happened already?