Provo residents: you got Google fiber. Now what are you going to do with it?

Let me start this post by saying I sell internet fiber for a living. Mostly international fiber on undersea cables. So, anytime people are getting faster internet links, I think, “ka-ching” (you know, the cash register sound).

Big-time ka-ching every time Google expands somewhere, which is what is going on in Provo.

Google announced that Provo would be the third city to become a “Google Fiber City.”

What this means in practice is that people in Provo will get (according to Google):

if the deal is approved and the acquisition closes, we’d offer our Free Internet service (5 Mbps speeds) to every home along the existing Provo network, for a $30 activation fee and no monthly charge for at least seven years. We would also offer Google Fiber Gigabit Internet—up to 100x faster Internet than today’s average broadband speeds—and the option for Google Fiber TV service with hundreds of your favorite channels. We’d also provide free Gigabit Internet service to 25 local public institutions like schools, hospitals and libraries.

Other sources indicate that in reality gigabit internet is about 125 megs, which is, let’s face it, super-super fast. Usually you can get this at home for $70/month.

So, this is definitely good news for Provo, but my question is: how many people truly need gigabit internet?

I work with several people who are big internet users, and they say they just don’t need something over about 20 megs right now. Yes, you can download movies and songs like lightning, but it’s not like they spend all day long doing that. What most people do is blog and get email and perhaps watch videos or songs on their internet. Netflix and Amazon Prime (and watching General Conference) work great with 10 megs. I have 15 megs to my house, and it is more than enough.

So, let’s agree that Gigabit ethernet is a great thing for the future. We can all imagine scenarios (gaming, super HD video, etc) where having more bandwidth may be necessary. Let’s also agree that for schools, hospitals and libraries, Gigabit ethernet is a great thing. I am simply wondering what people in Provo (and elsewhere) would do with all this bandwidth at their home if they had it. Would it make a difference in your life?

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

19 thoughts on “Provo residents: you got Google fiber. Now what are you going to do with it?

  1. Hey Geoff, do you know if there is any government subsidy going along with this?

  2. Aaron, I think there is a bit of corporatism going on here, but I could be wrong. Google is buying iProvo, which is a city-owned fiber to the home company. So, the government certainly subsidized something somewhere, but I don’t know that much about iProvo. Maybe one of our readers knows more.

  3. As I understand it, the deal breaks out like this:
    Most of the fiber infrastructure is already in place because of iProvo. A little while back iProvo was being managed poorly and was sold via bond to Veracity Communications. It wasn’t long before Veracity was unable to make it’s bond payments and Provo took over iProvo again, increasing resident’s utility rates “temporarily” to cover the mounting debt of the poorly managed/marketed system.
    Google will now being taking over all of this fiber, I am unclear if there will be any money exchanged, with the understanding that they are 100% responsible for the expansion, repair and upkeep of the system. The city will not be marketing, managing, or maintaining the fiber in any way. Thus Google takes on the financial burden of expansion and repair while the city is out from under increasing debt. The Mayor’s office was clear that utility rates will continue to be high until the debt incurred by the city is paid off.

  4. No one needs to download more than ~20 mbit/s on a continuous basis. Where bandwidth comes in handy is in terms of responsiveness. The higher the bandwidth, the faster any sizeable transaction (such as downloading a web page) can complete. That difference in responsiveness is noticeable at bandwidths far higher than 1 gbit/s, if the page or the picture or whatever is large enough.

    The extra bandwidth can also dramatically reduce congestion and packet loss, which is a major cause of stalling, delays, and poor real time voice and video quality. The only reason anyone gets high video quality over the Internet right now is that it is buffered, i.e. not real time. When you start video conferencing or doing anything else in real time, the burps and giggles of the Internet as we know it become far more apparent. Ample bandwidth minimizes that effect, in the same way that a thick wire leading to your house minimizes brown outs when the air conditioner kicks on.

  5. The question that people should be asking about it: Why are they giving it away for almost free?!

    What are the strings?

  6. They appear to be giving a way a basic level of service as a loss leader for their more expensive service, and as a strategic defense against some sort of walled garden move by existing incumbents, where the latter would hold Google’s core products and services hostage to a ransom demand.

  7. We have Verizon FiOS (20Mb down, 5 up) in a condo, so we’re maxed out in our two-person unit. It’s usually fast enough, but we have redlined the bandwidth a few times using a combination of PC and handheld devices and streaming video on demand through the DVR.

    The main argument for faster throughput isn’t so much any one device, as a home with multiple devices being used simultaneously. Just for example, a house in Provo with a half dozen people (students or a family with four computer-age kids) could be streaming HD video from various sources.

    With 4K content already becoming available, the strain on the bandwidth will only increase.

  8. With the added bandwidth, it opens the door for Google or others to provide more extensive products to the users. Now people could wire their entire house to work off the Internet: refrigerators that order product, controlling the thermostat from elsewhere, etc. So, perhaps it isn’t in what people are currently using the bandwidth, but what they will use it for, which makes the difference. After all, who would have thought 20 years ago that we would need so much bandwidth as we use now?

  9. Rame, that appears to be the most interesting part of this. LTE (wireless) is increasing bandwidth significantly, and microwave and satellite technology are getting better, but fiber really seems to be an all-purpose solution for the future. Of course there are lots of areas of the country that do not have fiber and probably never will because of the costs of digging and installing.

  10. One interesting thing: once upon a time, when computers were really slow, programmers had to come up with inventive ways to do more with less code. Every line of code could slow the program, so you have to streamline your program big time to make it usable.

    Now, when computers are super fast, programmers can afford to be lazy. There’s little noticeable difference to the user if they do the same thing with 10 lines of code instead of 2. So programs that could be a megabyte if programmers were to streamline their code can end up being 2 or perhaps 10 megabytes.

    How might faster internet make us lazier as producers of internet content?

  11. @LDSPhilosopher
    “innovation and creativity thrives under constraint.”

    That right there seems like an amazing gospel insight and explanation for commandments as restraining yet enabling/exalting principles

  12. goog currently tracks all activity of any user who is using their services. Not just by cookies, but by IP. And not just for things hosted on goog-owned servers, but any web site using any feature/product of goog.

    If there is a “G +1″ button on every page you visit, then goog knows the URL of every page you visit and the time, and logs it to a database with your IP number. (Same could be said of Facebook likes, and Tweet buttons. If one of those buttons is there, that service knows someone at your IP visited that particular web page.)

    Every web site/page that has goog ads allows goog to track you, and many web sites already use goog analytics services to analyze web traffic, so there’s another source of tracking.

    In addition, they know every Youtube video you watch, every Blogspot blog you visit, every goog documents doc that you view, etc., etc.

    Now when goog finally owns the “pipes” going to a home/business, do you think they will track every byte of data that goes in/out? Why do you think they are going to give it away FREE for seven years? (Well, aside from being like a CRACK dealer, who gives out the first few samples free.)

    It’s just like alll the other “free” services (geemail, youtube, blogspot, documents, analytics, etc). They build a useable database of what you’re doing so they can “serve” “appropriate” ads to you.

    The thing is, do you think goog will always be benevolent? Do you think government entities with the power of subpoena (ie, they can force goog to turn over anything they have) will always be benevolent?

  13. That is an interesting theory. I believe that Internet access providers should be classified as common carriers, per the Communications Act of 1934, and pretty much be prohibited from intercepting or analyzing the content of customer traffic without explicit consent. The ECPA is based upon this principle, and unfortunately Congress seems to be on the verge of turning it upside down.

  14. There are a lot of things that people don’t do much because of bandwidth limitations that currently exist.

    A few that I thought of include:
    syncing files between computers at different sites
    backing up your hard drive and/or using cloud storage more
    lots more video conferencing including “ambient hangouts”

    There are probably a lot more that I’m not thinking of. Most of us have limited some of our internet usage with previous providers. Google fiber does not have the bandwidth caps that other ISPs have.

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