As expected, Google’s action last week cut to the heart of a simmering national debate between the Obama administration and telecommunications companies over Internet policies that will shape communications far into the future.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski praised Google. “Big broadband creates big opportunities,” the FCC chairman said. “This significant trial will provide an American testbed for the next generation of innovative, high-speed Internet apps, devices and services.”
The major broadband carriers, including Verizon and the National Cable Telecommunications Association, downplayed Google’s move. “The Internet ecosystem is dynamic and competitive, and it’s delivering great benefits to consumers,” said Verizon spokesman David Fish. The cable group said it had already spent $161 billion over 13 years to build a national broadband system. It didn’t mention the relatively slow speed of it.
One critic called Google's action a PR stunt. “With one hand Google is urging regulations that stifle broadband deployment, and with the other hand, they are saying that telecom companies should spend hundreds of billions” to give ultrafast service to all Americans, said Scott Cleland, chairman of Netcompetition.org, an organization that represents many telecommunications companies and their industry associations and opposes new regulations on the Internet.
Digital advocacy groups praised the Google move. Google is showing the government “that we can have super-fast open broadband networks that break the duopoly of cable and telephone companies that we have today,” said Ben Scott, policy director for Free Press, a public interest group that advocates for open Internet rules.
“If [Google] can create an even mildly credible commitment to offer superfast broadband to the home, it could strike fear in the hearts of cable and telcos, stimulating an arms race of investment — just as they did in the auction for spectrum a few years ago,” said David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School.
Markham Erickson, executive director of the Open Internet Coalition, said "an ultrafast and open broadband will not only provide a new and exciting platform for the next generation of Internet services and apps, but will hopefully inject new life into the extinct third party ISP marketplace.”
Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Initiative of the New America Foundation said Google’s fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network sets a new standard for speed and transparency.
“The network should have open, symmetrical architecture that facilitates high-speed communication for users within the network, including schools, hospitals and the local government and data collection to spur Internet research,” said Meinrath. “The benefits of 1Gb/s connectivity are not maximized simply by getting data in and out of the community, but by creating vibrant digital commons that supports applications, resources and communication within the local network.”
Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said Google’s announcement amounts to a nationwide competition for communities to step up and make the case for what a next-generation network could do for them and then show America what is possible.
“Google is not the only company with the know-how and capacity to build this kind of network, but somebody had to go first,” he said. ”Maybe network providers with different ideas for what is possible will step up as well. Either way, we may finally see in America what a first-class, neutral platform can mean for unleashing innovation, strengthening community institutions and generating economic activity.”