Originally published: December 12, 2011
Last updated: December 22, 2011 - 11:40am
Let’s settle one thing up front: Google’s plan to build a far faster Internet for our homes could be, as the kids say, an epic fail.
It’s easy enough to see why the global Internet company would want to juice Kansas City’s Web surfing with a little rocket fuel. The faster the Internet — even measured in fragments of a second — the more time people spend online. That means Google sells more ads. It’s less clear that Google can make a business — an entirely new business for the search giant — out of a trucks-and-trenches job that even cable and telephone companies shy from. This is a hardhat project for a software company. Google has never been a utility before. Other than an experiment begun to a few hundred homes in California, it has never done things door to door, never fielded calls from the confused guy with a 10-year-old computer or dealt with squirrels chewing through the lines to a house. Yet now Google says that it will climb power poles and snake cable through the ground, that it will please customers one at a time. It aims to get them hooked up to, and hooked on, the kind of super-speedy Internet service that no one has sold at market prices before. Google might pour $1 billion or more into a network that could deliver the fastest of Internet connections to perhaps 1 million living rooms at a price to compete with what consumers pay for far slower service. Still, no one knows for sure whether it’s a good business idea.