Fiber: not just for your diet anymore

Fiber: not just for your diet anymore

The United States is behind, really behind, in getting high-speed fiber internet access to a large percentage of the U.S. population. If you look at this chart below (credit: Business Insider and Statista), it’s obvious we need to catch up with the rest of the world. Luckily, Google sees this opportunity for advancement and has a master plan to bring high-speed internet to the United States.

But why has U.S. has fallen so far behind in internet speed?

Great question! Not that long ago we were blazing technical trails and bringing crazy .com successes (and failures) to the world. But the answer appears to be multi-faceted, ranging from geographical restrictions to a simple lack of economic drive.

Fiber Internet Access in United States

For instance, the geographic span of the United States is truly expansive. The country is well over 2,000 miles across, with a significant amount of infrastructure that needs to be upgraded in order to support fiber optic.

The first iterations of internet access came from dial-up, which used phone lines to carry internet connections. Connection speeds, however, were extremely slow. From there we migrated to cable, which was the panacea of internet issues for me. I remember being able to download a picture or view a video without having to wait long periods of time for each one. And it was simple to re-purpose internet services through existing cable lines laid over decades prior.

Fiber optic connections aren’t as simple of a transition. Upgrading requires laying new fiber optic cables all over the country. Major cable carriers aren’t chomping at the bit to undergo this task because it’s extremely expensive to dig up streets and lay the necessary new cable. In most markets, there are only a few viable providers of high-speed internet, and the competition from alternative providers of fiber optic internet access just aren’t there to push the market forward. The lack of competition results in a lack of advancement.

Google (and their parent company Alphabet) see fiber optic internet as an enormous opportunity. The company generates the majority of their revenue from people using their search engine, then showing ads that match their desired result of a search. If the internet is faster, consumers can search for more things faster, find them faster, and visit websites faster. Increased internet speeds also mean people can watch videos on YouTube in high quality, bring streaming content into classrooms at faster speeds, and allow for more real-time “Hangouts.” The benefits are endless, but so are the difficulties. Still, Alphabet isn’t one to back down from a challenge and Google Fiber (the commercial brand name of their TV and fiber internet package) is popping up in areas around the country.

So what does all this mean for the digital marketing and technology landscape? Good things, in general… assuming you like the internet.

It wouldn’t be far-fetched to think that Google could monetize their new internet access in a variety of ways. For instance, offering massive free long-range WiFi hot spots in exchange for a home or start page with the Google logo and search box. For most of us, (whose home page is already Google) it’s a small price to pay for faster internet.

Beyond that, Google Fiber will presumably offer continued subscription services. Google Fiber provides fast fiber optic internet service to more and more locations throughout the U.S., but much of it may be sponsored or installed directly by Alphabet. It would also be used by Google’s cell phone service with much greater effect.

That brings us to Project Fi—Google’s “forget the other carriers and just trust us” cell phone service. Interestingly enough, it’s actually getting pretty good reviews. Project Fi uses various cell networks and/or local WiFi networks to make phone calls, access the internet, and stream some old-school Biggie when your 90’s hip-hop craving hits (maybe that’s just me).

In the long run, Google is investing in Fiber to allow people to quickly access the internet, use their phones and data better, and to be able to offer something that many cell phone providers won’t—the ability to provide both internet and cell phone service at fiber speeds. Sorry Verizon, time to get digging.

In the internet marketing and technology space, this is all good. It means more people enjoying more internet, faster, and with more satisfaction. That’s really what it’s all about because connecting with brands and friends in new and more inclusive ways is always welcomed.

Have some crazy theories about what Google is up to? We’d love to hear it. Share below!

The More You Know:
Do you know what WiFi stands for? No? Come on—you should be ashamed. Just kidding, most people don’t know. But now you can.

Scott Kaufmann
[email protected]

Scott is Partner at Lucid Agency and a lover of all things technology, marketing, investing and entrepreneurship. Scott volunteers on the board of the Denver-based Nonprofit Celebrate EDU and as a mentor for SeedSpot (a Phoenix-based social startup incubator).

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