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Who wins the net neutrality debate? Google, of course

Matt Hamblen | Nov. 17, 2014
In the debate over net neutrality, AT&T and Cisco are warning that fiber optic cable rollouts could be delayed -- and revenues lost -- if President Obama's recently proposed rules move ahead.

In the debate over net neutrality, AT&T and Cisco are warning that fiber optic cable rollouts could be delayed — and revenues lost — if President Obama's recently proposed rules move ahead.

Critics argue that those threats are overblown, that AT&T doesn't really have 100 cities ready for fiber installs anyway and while Cisco might lose out, it's been losing revenues from the likes of AT&T for a long time, regardless of this week's brouhaha.

There's no question a lot of rhetoric is flying around, most of it focused on who stands to lose the most as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) carries its deliberations into 2015.

Carriers like AT&T and others in the CTIA industry group (and several Republican U.S. senators) argue that regulating carriers and other ISPs under Title II of the Telecommunications Act would be too restrictive and limit their ability to innovate. But content providers like Netflix, Kickstarter and Youtube and many citizen action groups want the Obama-style regulations adopted to keep ISPs from prioritizing, or throttling certain content on their networks. They, too, argye that without such rules, innovation could be stifled — mainly the innovation from small Web-based groups.

Given that landscape, can anybody truly win the battle?

Well, yes, Google can win. It probably already has.

Google plays both sides

That's because Google really operates on both sides of the debate. It is an ISP with fiber optic rollouts under its 1 Gbps Google Fiber initiative and a content supplier, with Youtube and other Web sources.

No matter how the FCC rules next year, Google can move forward with fiber rollouts, even if they're restricted, because it will still be earning far-healthier revenues from carrying content.

Google's two-pronged strategy has been ovious for a long time, but lately it has looked genius given the net neutrality battle. While it's a strategy only a very large company could undertake, other very large companies never even tried.

If it's not genius, it's at least very savvy, this "build-your-own-trunk-and-pump-your own-junk" approach. By that way of thinking, Google is building a network made up of the "last mile" or "local loop" of fiber optic connections to homes as well as what's called the bigger "trunk" lines for connecting switching centers to those local loops. Whether Google's content can be described as "junk" is subjective, but junk does rhyme with trunk.

Google "is playing both sides of the game," said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics. "Their approach is to build their own network and then pump their own content and then keep their mouth shut."

Google, unlike AT&T, this week said it plans to continue its Google Fiber rollouts. That includes an ongoing effort in Kansas City, Kans., and Kansas City, Mo., where it just began service to small businesses in some neighborhoods in addition to service for families and individuals.

 

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