Should Google Fiber be in every home?

January 16, 2013
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Fiber Optic cable

If you like how Google Fiber’s fast and speedy service is being implemented in test cities across the U.S., you might envy the Chinese, which are requiring homes within the vicinity of fiber facilities to have access to the infrastructure. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology recently released a new government policy requiring new homes constructed within a mile of fiber optic channel networks to be equipped and fiber ready. This will give a boost to the “Fiber to the Home” initiative in the country, meant to expand domestic fiber broadband service networks. Chinese telecommunications companies are also expected to benefit from this potential growth worth in the trillions of yuan.

In 2012, the second largest telecommunications company, China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd. Added 10 million Chinese households to the their FTTH projects, and the Economic Information Daily also reported that these fiber network projects are expected to reach an additional 40 million families by 2015.

The policy implementation is set to start on April 1, 2013. Affected home construction guidelines also require that connections should include services from various telecommunications companies within the area. This would allow residents a choice in broadband service providers. The report, however, does not state any parameters for projected internet speeds for the fiber network, but rather just the implementation of access facilities itself.

Fiber in the U.S.

In the U.S., there are several initiatives by telecommunications companies and cable service providers for high speed broadband use, and some have been putting up fiber-optic networks as well. However, not all fiber optic services are created equal.

The most publicized initiative has been Google Fiber, which offers a 1 Gbps fiber optic internet connection for homes. Google Fiber has started pilot implementation in Kansas, and although plans are afoot for a nationwide implementation, this would have to wait. Investment and securities firm Goldman Sachs estimates the cost for Google to lay a nationwide fiber-optic network to be over $140 billion. Analysts also estimate the cost to install fiber network internet connections to 50 million homes to be $70 billion.

Verizon has been implementing a fiber-optic network of their own, and it has been estimated that they have spent $15 billion to connect 15 million homes to the FiOS fiber network. The company offers a 50 mbps bundle, which can be upgraded to 100 mbps. AT&T also has a fiber-optic network, but at slower speeds.

Google Fiber’s top-tier 1 Gbps internet connection is the fastest residential-use connection, so far. Previously, 1 Gbps installations have been in universities for research purposes, and in some government and military offices. Although Google does plan for a nationwide rollout, it is doubtful that they would offer coverage for remote rural areas. Like laying copper cables, the cost of laying a fiber optic cable becomes economically feasible if there are enough prospective subscribers in the area. However, it is easy to commit to an investment in an area with a large population, as the cost for deployment would be defrayed by the number of subscribers.

Should Google Fiber be in every home, then? Should local governments mandate fiber optic facilities to be accessible to new homes in areas where it is available?

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