Bridging the Digital Divide: Google Fiber Is Closer Than You Think

Will the nation see a bridge over its digital divide? When will cities that aren’t part of a metropolitan statistical area with more than several million people have access to the technology they need? We’re moving in that direction; on August 15, 2013, Google confirmed that Provo, Utah will be the second city after Kansas City to get Google Fiber, with Austin, TX not far behind. GoogleFiberBlog highlight’s the search engine’s plan to bring 1 Gbps Internet to cities across America prompted other Internet service providers to follow suit.

According to BlueBugle.org, as soon as news of Google’s plan to provide 1 Gbps Internet service in Austin, TX became public, AT&T announced its plans to do the same thing.

Local Communities Provide 1 Gbps Internet Service

In Chattanooga, the city’s electric company, EPB, took it upon themselves to build their own version of Google Fiber. According to Fierce Telecom, EPB became an ISP. Their 1 Gbps Internet service receives consistently strong ratings on DSLReports.

Wicked Fiber is Lawrence, Kansas’ version of Google Fiber, Slashdot reveals. In addition to its 1 Gbps Internet service, it also offers tiers of 100 Mbps and 20 Mbps. They are following Google’s example by installing in neighborhoods with the most pre-registration first and installing where there is enough demand.

CenturyLink announced plans through its website to upgrade its existing fiber architecture providing customers in Omaha, Nebraska with Internet speeds up to 1 Gbps.

Other cities Fierce Telecom says are offering 1 Gbps Internet service include:

  • Lafayette, LA created LUS Fiber and began offering 1 Gbps Internet Service in 2010.
  • Chicago, IL and Seattle, WA have created partnerships with Gigabit Squared to deliver 1 Gbps Internet service to their communities.
  • Leverett, Mass just started building its network.

What About Major ISPs?

It seems as though Google’s plan to inspire competition in broadband access is working at least for some municipalities and smaller internet providers. AT&T is the only major ISP with plans to provide 1 Gbps service. Why?

A look at verizonfiosdeals.com/fl/tampa.html shows that Verizon, known for having the fastest speeds in the country, is not planning to offer 1 Gbps service, but they have something else cooking. According to an article in the Washington Post, Verizon has stalled expansion of its fiber optic business– but for a good reason. The provider’s shifted focus towards expanding its 4G wireless network.

4G Speeds Could Overtake Fiber Optics

Major ISPs and Google Fiber's leadThe percentage of people using smartphones will reach 68 percent by 2017, according to Media Bistro. That number is largely due to the wider availability of 3G and 4G services and the continuing evolution of advanced wireless technologies. Telecommunications service users simply prefer to use their smartphones to make phone calls, download data, view movies and video, and access the Internet, as Plunkett Research reveals.

The days of using landlines and computers are on the way out. Millions of customers have cancelled their landline service in favor of using cell phones with 3G or 4G services. Clearly, this eats into the revenue of big telecom companies.

Wireless access is the wave of the future. It is a threat to fiber optic services and DSL broadband services. Smartphones currently have more processing power than PC’s used ten years ago. Fourth generation networks substantially increase data transmission. The focus on data transmission instead of voice is a departure from previous networks, according to GBESX.com. This marks a shift from voice-focused mobile networks to data-focused mobile networks. This is a clear threat to fiber optic Internet providers since 4G speeds have the potential to be just as fast as fiber optics. While that may not be the best news for them, it’s good for the communities that need more access to the best available technology.

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Author: In a former life, Tanya Sullivan worked in corporate America, providing SEO solutions for small businesses. Now she’s a part-time blogger and full-time mom to two little girls.