In case you missed it, Google just announced a plan to install 100Gb fiberoptic networks in several communities nationwide. Say what now? 100 what? Fiberoptic who? In brief, this is plan to bestow1 upon a number of unsuspecting citizens internet access at a speed that runs circles around Verizon’s Fios service, currently the fastest commercial internet available to any significant number of customers.
“OK, so where do I fit in” you may ask? Well, I’m glad you did. There’s a current belief2 that much of what troubles the American Economy may find its remedy in widespread availability/affordability of broadband access. There is even a bit of a groundswell in the philanthropic realm to begin providing such access to rural communities3. And as someone in the so-called trenches of one such rural community I sit firmly in the camp that believes expanded access is not just an economic but a social imperative.
Every day, in numbers that continue to rise we see people coming in to use our computers. Many of them are surfing facebook but many others are applying for jobs, updating their resumes, looking for services and filing for unemployment. Why do they come here? Internet in our county is expensive and slow. The fastest “broadband” speed available to residential customers is relatively pokey DSL.
Still confused about how this affects you, dear reader? Setting aside discussion about whether we view it as essential that one be able to facebook, youtube, email and other such activity4, we now live in a world where you need online access and computer skills to apply for a shelf stocking job at Food Lion. Setting aside, again, the fact that those with the most need and the least access pay the highest price in this game we see that internet access is quickly becoming a necessity of everyday life.
And trust me, it ain’t getting any less necessary anytime soon. Which brings us back to Google, and eventually libraries. What Google seems to be doing is firing a shot across the bow of telcom companies who often find themselves in a monopoly situation5. By showing an alternative way of building infrastructure – partnering with communities – and offering competitive prices for superior speed Google is challenging the current economic model. And here’s hoping it works.
Finally, back to libraries. I’ts always going to come back to libraries around here. Happily, my library has just finalized paperwork that will bring 10Mb/sec fiberoptic internet to county residents at our six locations. Although we currently provide faster internet than many people have access to the county, this will give our people faster access with fewer interruptions in service6 in an economic climate where whenever we can provide more we should.
Libraries are always going to be a stop-gap for the underprivileged and those in the greatest need. This is often a source of satisfaction and frustration in my day-to-day. But by providing this service we, like Google, will hopefully start to exert some economic pressure in some meaningful way. Perhaps the more projects we see like the one from Google and the more institutions (read: libraries) that offer these types of speeds the more people will come to expect broadband saturation. And that’s good for everyone.
So what do you think? Is expanding broadband speed and access for everyone a priority? How dependent have you become on having ready access to the internets? Are you now planning to petition Google to bring fiber to your neighborhood? Discuss in the comments.
1 I use the word bestow in a limited sense – the big Goog does plan to charge for this access, but promises “a competitive price” to between 50,000 and 500,000 customers.
2 evangelical and wild-eyed though it may be…
3 full disclosure: my place of employ is included as a beneficiary in the linked grant.
4 Yes, I argue – and this may end up as its own post.
5 Sure, I can choose between Verizon and Comcast, but the choice is between slow (Verizon) and expensive (Comcast).
6 Heavy YouTube use still drags our network to a crawl.