The race to a gigabit Internet is now officially underway.
For the past couple of years, Google has been building gigabit services in selected cities. The system first went live in Kansas City in 2012, and it’s currently in development in Provo, Utah, and Austin, Texas. The conventional wisdom was that this was a simply another Google “out-of-the-box” effort to funnel more business to its advertising services. Given the resources of Google, the conventional Internet providers couldn’t dismiss the effort outright. But could an advertising network make a serious attempt to provide fiber services to every house in the country? That would seem very unlikely.
Then a couple of months ago, Google announced that the company is expanding its services to up to 34 different metropolitan areas, including communities in the Atlanta area.
I guess that was just too much to ignore.
This past week, AT&T announced that it was going to bring its fiber network to up to 100 candidate cities. The announcement states that the fiber network will deliver broadband speeds of up to one gigabit per second. (As a very important aside, AT&T has properly included Augusta on the list of candidate cities.) Like Google, AT&T is requesting the communities demonstrate a commitment to the services and present arguments as to why a city (like Augusta) is more deserving than another city (like Cleveland, as if that needs an explanation).
I guess there are some wondering why we would need gigabit Internet to our homes. A number of Internet services don’t perform effectively at current cable modem speeds. The first service that comes to mind is streaming movies. Instead of pausing every few minutes waiting for Netflix to buffer, a high-definition movie will fully download in less than two minutes.
The next application that will greatly benefit is videoconferencing. Whether you are using Skype, Facetime or some other application, gigabit Internet allows for the higher resolutions and frame rates that are needed for a truly immersive interaction.
And finally, let’s not forget about online gaming. Be honest: What wouldn’t you give for an extra split second right after you’ve figured out that you’ve become the target?
Bottom line? Instead of sucking up all the household bandwidth with one app and listening to everyone whine, I can catch up on “Game of Thrones” and “Breaking Bad” while my wife does a videochat with her mom and sister in Austin and my kids play online Minecraft with their friends from school.
Granted, there may be more productive uses — streaming religious services to homebound individuals, participating in online college lectures or enhancing work-at-home programs for working mothers — but don’t discount the positive impact of a calm and happy household. As Bill Cosby once said, it’s not about the justice, it’s about the quiet.
If gigabit Internet can bring quiet, it can’t get here fast enough.
Until next time, I’m off the grid @greg_a_baker.