Monday, March 22, 2010

Gigabit Fiber at Home?

Google is getting a ton of publicity about it's Google Fiber for Communities contest. They promise to lay out a really fast fiber network in the winning community, and cities all over the country are putting together applications / proposals touting themselves as the best candidate city.

Amongst Google's claims is that they will provide homes and businesses with Internet connections up to 100 times faster than what currently exists in the community. The expectation/hope is that faster connections will lead to 'new bandwidth-intensive "killer apps" and services, or other uses we can't yet imagine'.

What will a gigabit Internet connection do for me? Not much in today's world. Or next year's world either. Now, I don't want to be perceived as short sighted, but let's be realistic and look at this little analogy to put things in perspective...

Haulin' Bits
Before the Google Fiber days, I had to haul bits back and forth from my ISP to my house by the wheelbarrow full in my little Toyota pickup. Then Google came along and gave me a ten yard dump truck to haul the bits. Great. Now I should be able to get a lot of bits real fast.

But, oh oh, my ISP can only give me a wheelbarrow of bits at a time. And the rules of the Internet say that I have to deliver each load to my house before I can get the next load. (By the way, the new truck goes the same speed as my little Toyota, it can just carry more.)

I can't be mad at my ISP for not filling up my new truck. It would cost them a huge pile of money to be able to load my big dump truck up to capacity each time, even if they could get the bits fast enough. They have lots of customers. While they have the capacity to load up one or two of those dump trucks every minute, they cannot fill thousands of them at once. After all, they have to pay a shipping charge for the bits they distribute to me and their other customers. It's not free.

It gets worse. Even though my ISP has the ability to give me a whole wheelbarrow load at a time, the company that I want to get bits from can only ship out one dump truck at a time. AND, they have to divide that up amongst a thousand customers simultaneously. So, I'd be lucky to get a shovel's worth of bits from them for each trip anyway.

So, I have this great big dump truck, but I can only haul a wheelbarrow worth of stuff each trip. Sure, it might include a shovel full of bits, a bundle of news, a bucket of movie, or even a game or two. But I'm going to have a lot of unused capacity in that truck. Maybe someone will come up with some stuff to fill up the empty space in my new dump truck, so I can boast about hauling bigger loads. But it'll have to come from someone locally, as my ISP's can't afford to haul it in from off their network. I don't know what I'll do with it, and I wonder how long I'll have to wait for it.

Or, maybe they could just fluff up the bits with a bunch of air so it looks like I'm getting a better deal.

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