Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A New Hope for Home Internet

Google is in the business of being a game-changer. When they rolled out Gmail with 1GB of space for each person, Yahoo! Mail was offering a paltry 4MB.  It took Yahoo over a year to catch up; Hotmail needed 2 and a half years.

(Why does Google offer so many free Internet tools? If Google makes the Internet better, people use the Internet more often, and Google's superior tools will be perfectly positioned to make money by showing them ads.)

Now, Google is experimenting with another potentially game-changing way to increase Internet use: better home Internet service. If you're not a heavy user, you might not think home Internet service is that bad. However, as we increasingly turn to streaming video instead of cable or satellite, companies like Comcast and AT&T are dragging their heels instead of moving with us, and early adopters are finding that the companies just don't seem willing to change. The problems that heavy users face today will be your problems tomorrow...

...unless Google's experiment works. It sure seems like all the right pieces are in place: Internet Service Providers have been coasting for years and increasing prices without any significant improvement to services. Google already has a lot of network expertise, both from leasing their own fiber lines all over the world and from smaller experiments with providing super-fast Internet to their own employees. And honestly, Google's too smart to undertake a project this big without a pretty solid plan in place.

So what happens now? We watch, and we cheer from the sidelines. If Google is able to successfully provide super-fast Internet access in Kansas City, at a cost equal to (or possibly much lower) than the competition's relatively slow broadband, we can look forward to similar improvements in most cities and neighborhoods across the US. If Comcast and AT&T can't keep up with Google, someone else will.

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