Google's Big Fiber Play: What Gives?

What made Charter's plan so troubling is that ISPs have the ability to track everything you do online. With Google, the complications and conflicts of interest between running an ISP and an advertising network could be problematic. Google's advertising network is focused on delivering relevant advertising to Google users, so it's not unreasonable to wonder if the commercial interests of Google the ISP and Google the advertising network wouldn't conflict with the privacy interests of Google's broadband customers.

Google Is Building Up Municipal Broadband

One of the biggest threats to the way national ISPs do business are municipal broadband projects where a city develops its own broadband network and then creates a city-owned utility to deliver Internet service to city residents. City governments love the municipal broadband concept since traditional ISPs serving city residents may not be willing to incur the cost of upgrading broadband networks in smaller or more remote communities. But ISPs feel threatened by municipal broadband since city-owned utilities may be exempt from paying to city governments the same taxes, fees and surcharges that private corporations do. As a result, there have been cases of lobbying state legislatures to pass laws that discourage cities from developing municipal broadband or of larger ISPs trying to stop municipal broadband through the courts.

However, if cities entered into public-private partnerships with companies such as Google, it might help long-suffering municipal broadband projects get off the ground. One possible scenario would be where city councils financed the broadband construction, and then let Google run the network as an ISP. In that case, competing ISPs may find it difficult to fight city hall and Google at the same time.

That may not be Google's initial plan with its pilot project, but then again, check out this entry from part 3 of Google's request for information from municipal governments that want to be included in Google's broadband project: "Describe any current or planned programs in your community to accelerate and expand adoption and use of broadband Internet access." Sounds like that part of the questionnaire is tailor-made for describing a failed municipal broadband project, don't you think?

Think big with a gig:

Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

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