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  • Bob Knight

Hot Take: Google Fiber's Opportunity

A recent article by Blair Levin and Larry Downes in the Harvard Business Review makes the case that Google Fiber is high-speed internet's most successful failure. The authors point out that although Google grossly underestimated capital expenditures and the speed of the regulatory process, it was successful at disrupting the $60 billion broadband industry.

Google's very presence spurred innovation, triggered scores of cities to re-think their communications needs, and jolted other providers into action.

Google Fiber has paused its deployment activity for now but that doesn't mean there isn't opportunity.

"They're why we're in the space today," says Brian Snider, Network Design Practice Area Leader at Foresite Group, who credits Google Fiber's presence in waking up the market.

"Every new piece of technology will require more bandwidth. Many struggle to watch Netflix at current speeds, so imagine how much harder it is going to be to connect in five years with the same slow bandwidth?" he notes.

There's room for Google Fiber to enjoy future success by leveraging a different business model.

"If Google Fiber is truly interested in expanding their network footprint, they should resist looking at technological innovations like SuperPON and instead focus on an Open Access model," says Ben Lewis-Ramirez, Business Development Head at Foresite. "Open Access would allow Google Fiber to expand without burdensome capex associated with building their own plant."

The Open Access model, which has grown in popularity overseas, is designed around an independent fiber network--built by municipality or private entity--allowing multiple internet service providers (ISPs) to lease fiber and compete for customers.

The benefits associated with Open Access are numerous. Network operators benefit by collecting "rent" on their networks, ISPs benefit by reaching households and businesses quickly and without significant expense, and consumers benefit by having several competitive offerings for price and speed among various providers.

Open Access is starting to catch on in the United States.

"As a technology company that prides itself on forward thinking and disruption, embracing Open Access would be a good fit with Google's brand, image, and culture," adds Lewis-Ramirez.

With 50 billion connected devices by 2020, and enormous investments in telemedicine, online learning, and connecting distributed workforces, greater bandwidth won't just be a luxury, it will be a requirement. There's certainly room for Google Fiber at the table.

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