Google, fiber, and WiFi

The tech world is abuzz with the announcement by Google that they are:

1) Rolling out a national fiber backbone

2) Offering Google Secure Access WiFi services

Throw a rock and you'll hit someone with an opinion, but on SlashDot, which usually has pretty sharp insight into these things, the consensus is as follows:

1) Google's network initiatives will allow it to know even more about its customers, making advertising on Google even more valuable (and it is the advertising that is paying the bills).

2) The phone companies are in deep trouble. Google just rolled out GoogleTalk, a voice application that could quickly become full-fledged VoIP, and you needs lot of bandwidth to handle lots of phone calls. Hence the national fiber backbone. Google will be able to quickly build a large customer base and throw all the hardware resources needed at it to keep service quality high. Look for college students to start dropping cellphone service first.

3) But how do you replace cellphones with fiber? Well, you need a WiFi and/or WiMax wireless network to do so. Which Google has started testing. Just like Sprint and MCI did in the early days of competitive long distance, Google will cherry pick key markets and grab big gobs of customers--think college campuses and college towns, downtown metro areas, etc.

4) Google will also use its massive network to continually provide new and improved Web applications to piggyback on its email, mapping, and newsgroup services. Eventually, Google will rollout a net-centric desktop OS replacement for free, killing Windows.

Who loses? From a community perspective, rural communities are not likely to see free or low cost Google services anytime soon, because the markets are not big enough.

As I have written before, I am very cautious about Google and any other "free" service providers (e.g. Yahoo!, MSN, etc.). You give your privacy away, and lose ownership of your own data. Yahoo! just handed over emails to the Chinese government that resulted in a ten year jail sentence for someone who was writing about freedom in China (or the lack of it).

We need to be very cautious about any company that offers "free" services and exposes us to privacy and free speech problems.

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