I suppose this kind of response to the Google Fiber announcement was inevitable, just as it’s completely false assumptions are. The author gets a number of predictable things wrong.
[A]nd finally Provo will be out of the Telcom business.
No, it won’t. It’s still paying for the bond, it has to shell out another $1.7M to make it happen, and there’s a provision that they get the buy the network back for $1 should Google decide to pull up stakes. Granted, that may never happen, but to say that Provo has washed its hands of the matter is patently false.
[I]t’s not like there was some huge cache of potential customers waiting for join the Net.
That’s a really funny thing to say about a network with a 35% take in spite of having multiple failed private providers and mountains of negative press. Bear in mind that Verizon was thrilled to have a 18% take rate on FIOS after two years. If anything, many people were holding out while they were waiting for a less-tainted provider to be an option.
[F]iber is clearly not “future-proof” as claimed at the time.
And here’s where an inch of knowledge on telecom gets you into trouble when you try wading into the ocean. The fiber itself is fine. Most of the work is in digging trenches, attaching to poles, putting in conduit, and running the lines. The electronics, while vital, are a relatively small portion of the overall network. It’s also worth noting that the 100Mbps electronics put in place almost a decade ago are still providing a service that neither Comcast nor CenturyLink can match or beat. That’s some pretty good longevity on any network equipment.
It’s worth noting that Google is deploying 1Gbps electronics when 10Gbps, 40Gbps, even 100Gbps electronics exist. Would the author slam Google for being behind the curve over that, making the same dubious claims over “future-proof” networks? Of course not. Any network is designed to take advantage of the best you can get for the money now and plan for upgrades in the future. It’s become painfully obvious that neither incumbent has done a particularly good job of doing so.
[W]ireless networking has greatly increased its speed and range, and cellular data has moved from a novelty to a mainstay of most cell phone plans.
Again, Mr. Platt gets in trouble by talking about technical things without any technical knowledge. Wireless almost always depends on fiber backhaul. When you use microwave backhaul like Clearwire and Sprint, you end up introducing a lot of latency into the connection which renders it unsuitable for any real-time application. Wireless also hasn’t come anywhere near catching up to fiber in terms of speed. It’s just barely starting to get to a point where a wireless ISP can offer up 100Mbps speeds.
It’s also comical to cite cellular as an alternative when, again, the speeds can’t match wireline. Even the best LTE connection can barely muster a real-world speed on par with CenturyLink’s oh-so-hard-to-find top-tier ADSL2+ product. That’s only going to drop as more LTE devices get into the hands of consumers. Most of those cellular plans come replete with very low caps, high overage charges, or some kind of throttling or filtering which makes them completely unsuitable for business use and hardly an alternative for residential users.
In the long run, it’s still unclear whether and how long wired internet connections will be relevant.
I think the preceding two paragraphs lay this one to rest. If wireline was dying, why would Verizon have poured billions into it, to the chagrin of investors, especially when they own America’s largest cellular company? Why would Google be pursuing deals in various cities to promote fiber-to-the-home? Why is FTTH so explosively popular in Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo? This is yet another point on which Mr. Platt falls on rhetoric as a substitute for knowledge and comes up lacking. While companies like CenturyLink who lack the will and/or ability to upgrade their wireline networks are dying a slow and painful death, that has everything to do with being a terribly run business, not the relevance of their industry.
Most importantly, Internet service is far outside the essential role of government.
This is a common refrain, and it often comes with a big dose of selective outrage. The telecom sector has been rife with government intervention and cronyism almost since its inception. AT&T was a legally-protected monopoly right up until they were broken up in 1984. The major players in the industry got huge tax breaks in the Telco Act of 1996, the price of which has surpassed $300B. Google, on whom Mr. Platt lavishes praise, has received massive tax and financial benefits from the local governments where they plan to do business. Where is the outrage here? Or is the outrage reserved for when public money isn’t being spent on private enterprise? Sir, your principles ring hollow.
[T]hank you Google for buying out network at the appropriate price of $1.
The over-simplification of what the deal actual is shows yet more layers of gross ignorance. The network had an assessed value of $25M, and much of that had to do with the negative perception created by a string of grossly incompetent private providers (HomeNet, Mstar, Broadweave). For an economics professor, he’s not doing such a great job at following the money.
But this is where Mr. Platt’s true motivation sneaks on out in all of its ugly glory:
Please, let your monthly utility bill stir thoughts about the proper role of government. If this reflection somehow prevents citizens and politicians alike from future misadventures into private enterprise, it just might be worth it.
Translation: I’m glad that you can suffer and the taxpayers can be thrown under the bus in order to prove my ideological points. I’d do it again in a moment.
This kind of attitude is far too prevalent in the discourse about both iProvo and UTOPIA. The idea that making the projects fail in order to make taxpayers suffer so that you can be vindicated on your prediction is abhorrent at best. If you see someone with this attitude trying to get into any kind of government position, you’d do best to run in the other direction. Fast.
It’s sad that there’s no shortage of people who are confident in their lack of knowledge, nor that they spend so much time trying to get their ill-informed opinions into print. Let’s just hope that they become footnotes in the debate rather than carrying any real gravitas.