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Google to spend US$60 million on undersea fiber link between Florida and Brazil

Matt Hamblen | Oct. 16, 2014
Project shows company's ongoing efforts to gain greater control over Internet access.

"Those that have control can impose their will," Newby said.

Allied Fiber and other companies could indirectly benefit from the Brazil fiber connection. Allied Fiber is a small, private company with just 15 employees that sells unused -- or "dark" -- fiber and network co-location capability in Florida; it has focused on fiber in submarine networks in south Florida, Newby said.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said Google and its partners in the Brazilian project, surely see untapped financial potential. "South America and especially Brazil, Argentina and Peru are fast emerging markets with huge potential," Gold said. "With a direct channel down there, Google can dramatically increase its coverage and hence their revenues through ads."

Some reports have depicted the choice of Brazil as a move by Google to potentially bring more Internet connectivity to a country in need of greater access, especially for the poor.

Google's efforts in Kansas City
When Google first announced Google Fiber for Kansas City, Kans., and then Kansas City, Mo., in 2012, it talked about the need to reduce the digital divide in that region. Since then, there has been criticism from neighborhood groups over whether enough poor people in the Kansas City area have signed up to pay for Google Fiber with 1Gbps connections, or to obtain a much slower connection that is free, subject to a $300 installation fee.

While Google Fiber in Kansas City and other U.S. cities is obviously a different business than undersea cable development, both types of projects show a Google that wants network control, top to bottom.

"The Google Fiber experiment that turned into a real business in K.C. is in itself an example of why Google wants to take the lead on submarine cable," Newby said. "This is not new, but we are probably going to see more of non-traditional carriers and service providers entering into submarine projects. And I'd venture to guess there will be new submarine cable projects with no traditional carriers involved at all."

Google hasn't revealed precisely how well its Kansas City area Google Fiber buildout has done in connecting poor neighborhoods to the Internet. It has, however, announced completion of 7,000 miles of construction in that two-state area, a process that has helped kick-off a flurry of tech startup activity.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on door-to-door surveys it had done in the area showing that just 15% of residents in six low-income Kansas City, Mo., neighborhoods had some form of Google Fiber service, compared to 54% of residents in nearby middle- and higher income neighborhoods.

A recent blog post by Google's Erica Swanson, head of community impact programs, said the "long-term, complex problem" of addressing the digital divide requires working with local partners over time.


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