Google, makers of Android, Chrome, GMail & GMaps (merely touching the surface), has announced plans for a, and the company has petitioned for communities to present Requests for Information (RFI) by 26 March. According to Google’s press release, the company has been working with federal agencies since last summer to channel ARRA (American Recovery & Reinvestment Act) monies into developing fiberoptic cable, and are now striking out on their own to develop a test-case. Could your community be that beneficiary? Town and city governments are encouraged to apply, of course, but the site also points out that individuals can nominate their communities as well:
Google is perceived as the go-to tech company in the twenty-first century, which is not to say it does not have its critics. And Google Books continues to run into legal difficulties. But moving into a project that is as much about hardware as it is about software is, well, eye-catching, even for Google.
As their appeals last year to Congress stressed, the biggest costs in fiberoptic technologies are borne in laying out the cable: getting workers under streets, on poles, or tearing down/repairing up walls. So the company’s step into that very sector leads me to believe that Congress was not forthcoming in support. Indeed, Google’s site suggests it’s proposal was stymied: “We’ve urged the FCC to look at new, and creative ways to get [extensive 1 gig networks] in its National Broadband Plan â€“ and now we’re announcing an experiment of our own.”
The previous presidential administration looked ready to quash a principle known as ‘net neutrality‘ by allowing corporations like AT&T or Comcast to favor certain content and slow down the delivery of those unwilling or unable to pay extra delivery fees (Well, I mean, look what the admin did with ‘habeas corpus,’ which has a 900-year pedigree!). Although the Obama Administration as generally favored net neutrality and has made that policy clear at the FCC, some corporations still hope to control the flow of information across their networks.
Now, the blogosphere is full of nothing, if not conspiracy theories. But I can not help but wonder if Google has sensed a political and/or technological trend toward a tiered internet filled with checkpoints and wants to put up an open(source) competitor. To do so will take much cash and much time and many jobs. So it would not be difficult to see the present administration give its support, even if only of the moral variety. But then what? A future administration might not be as inclined to support such neutrality. And the previous administration understoodof neutrality before it became a public outcry.
The aggregate network speed within the US is at or near the top of the previous generation of networks. But the key concept is ‘previous generation.’ DSL (what most of us have in our homes) is at its heart a new trick on old copper phone wires laid out before WWII. The companies using those copper wires have not wanted to invest in new infrastructure, except in the most profitable markets (allowing the e-quick and rich to get e-quicker and richer). Google’s plan, no matter how far it can go after its ‘proof-of-concept’ project, might kickstart a drive toward a greatly expanded, and hopefully net-neutral, third-generation information network.