If your neighbor won the lottery, would you quit your job right then because you’re certain that your ticket is going to pay off next? Of course you wouldn’t. Unfortunately, a lot of people are taking that same kind of attitude with regards to broadband. Even before Google announced that they would take over iProvo, a common refrain was “I’ll just sit back and wait for Google to come to me”. If you believe that you’re going to get fiber for nothing, you’re in for a very rude awakening. Let’s take a look at places Google has already announced for why.
Kansas City, KS/MO
I’m sure most folks were scratching their heads when the first Google Fiber town got named. Why would a run-down midwestern town with little more to claim that Sprint’s HQ in neighboring Overland Park be worthy of landing The Big G and its fiber project? The answer is that the “free” broadband came at a very steep price.
The development agreement between Google and Kansas City stipulates that “Google will bear all costs for the [Fiber] project.” Yet it goes on to guarantee the company:
- Free power
- Free office space for Google employees
- Expedited permits and inspections (with fees waived)
- Free marketing, including direct mail
- Free right-of-way easements (i.e. Google can build anywhere they want without compensating the city for noise or increased traffic)
- The right to approve or reject any public statements city city makes about Fiber
We don’t know yet what this will cost the city to essentially build a replacement monopoly (one that has already signed 90% of the city), but you can bet that the “benevolent monopoly” (as IGN called them) won’t stay that way.
Long before Google had announced Fiber, Austin had been trying to form its own municipal network. Unfortunately for them, Texas is one of the states that outright banned municipal networks which may have cost them first city status. Google came back despite this because Austin had already shown that it was willing to do the work. And while the terms of their deal don’t seem to be as public as Kansas City or Provo (I couldn’t find them), you can bet that similar concessions were made.
And now in our backyard, we have Provo and its iProvo network. The city started getting this network going with discussions in the late 90′s. Construction started in 2001. The city has been doing a lot of work to try and bring a world-class telecommunications platform into the city, and they still had to make Google one heck of a sweet deal to get them to take over.
Your City, UT?
Now I want you to ask yourself an honest question: what exactly has your city done to improve broadband? Other than maybe groveling at the feet of incumbent providers, I’d put my money on not a darn thing. How do you think Google will view that lack of initiative? Again, my money goes on not too favorably.
This leads to a follow-up question: if your city wasn’t willing to spend money on improving broadband before, what makes you so sure they’re ready to do it now? Did they even investigate joining UTOPIA? If they joined, did they support the UIA? If they got promises from Comcast and CenturyLink to do better, did you follow up to make sure they held up their end of the bargain? Yeah, exactly.
Like I said back in August, you need to do the work yourself. If you do, you’ll either get a network you built all on your own or Google may take notice and finish the job for you. Fortune favors the bold, and broadband is no exception. What you’ll get is equal to the effort you put in. Especially if it’s nothing.