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GOOGLE WANTS GIGA BIT PER SECOND INTERNET CONNECTIONS...FOR
KANSAS CITY, ANYWAY
Google, never satisfied with the pace of change, plans a test that
will provide 50,000 to 500,000 people with fiber-optic broadband Internet access with a network speed of a gigabit per second
starting as soon as this year.
"We're planning to build and test ultra high-speed broadband
networks in a small number of trial locations across the United States. We'll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times
faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections," Google
product managers Minnie Ingersoll and James Kelly said in a blog post Wednesday.
"Our goal is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone."
The company plans to
use the experiment to test new ways to build fiber networks and to see what applications programmers can write. And Chief
Executive Eric Schmidt called for better Internet access in the United States in a Washington Post op-ed Wednesday, calling it a matter of national competitiveness.
"High-speed Internet access must be
much more widely available. Broadband is a major driver of new jobs and businesses, yet we rank only 15th in the world for
More government support for broadband remains
critical," Schmidt said.
Google suggested trials of gigabit-per-second Net access in comments to the Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Plan, but then realized Google itself could be
the catalyst, said Richard Whitt, Google's Washington, D.C., telecom and media counsel.
"As we thought more," Whitt said,
"we realized we could leave this to the government, but we're fortunate to have some resources. Why don't we try this
ourselves and make it a reality as a new testbed approach?"
Google, whose profits come from ads on its search engine, has been pushing
for better Internet access for years. It's sought to catalyze next-generation wireless networking by investing in Clearwire, encourage Wi-Fi in airports and airplanes, open
up use of "white space" in U.S. radio spectrum, and foster Net access
for billions of people who lack it.
Google will offer the
broadband access "at competitive prices," Kelly said in a YouTube video about the project.
One can imagine
some angst at companies such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, which today offer broadband speeds in the United States that
typically are in the range of 1 to 10 megabits per second, though 100Mbps rates are in the offing. However, these companies may find a place in the Google plan, which will give users "the
choice of multiple service providers."
Details remain muddy about how exactly middlemen or partners will be involved, but here's
what Google had to say about the partnership matter in a statement:
We will allow third-parties to offer their own Internet access
services, or other services, using our network.
We believe this approach will maximize user choice as well as spur greater innovation and
competition. Most providers in Europe and many places elsewhere in the world operate open access networks. It will be open
to any service provider, including incumbents and new entrants. "Open" means open.
As part of the planned trial, Google will
offer competitively priced, high-speed Internet access service to residents of the chosen communities. In addition, we will
allow third parties to offer their own Internet access services, or other data services, on our open network. It's too early
to say how much we will charge for access to our network. We plan to set prices that are fair and competitive.
Whitt said he alerted
his peers at Internet service providers AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, Cox Communications, Qwest, and Time Warner about Google's
plan shortly after Google published its plan in the public blog. The purpose of the e-mail was "to let them know this
is a testbed approach. Nothing here is intended to supplant what they do in the market."
He also went out of his way to praise Verizon's
Fios fiber-optic broadband service and said Google is open to working with Internet service providers. "We are prepared
to act as the ISP to the end user, but we're also very open to working with the folks who want to be the ISP, like Earthlink
or AOL. We're happy to work with them," Whitt said.
Still, it's easy to imagine displeasure as these companies, already squabbling
with Google over Net neutrality matters, reckon with a rival that makes their efforts at innovation look a generation behind.
"As with some of
the things that Google has done in the wireless space, this 'experiment' could be Google's way of pushing the telcos to more
rapidly increase their own fiber deployments," said Ben Schachter, an analyst with Broadpoint AmTech, in a research note.
the project will cost Google between $60 million and $1.6 billion.
Other Google services
stand to gain from faster Net speeds. For example, high-definition video could help attract studios and make YouTube a pay-per-view
competitor to Netflix and cable TV. Or Chrome OS, with its Web-based applications, could become a more responsive competitor
to traditional operating systems. Google
Voice, which is being augmented with voice-over-IP service, could become more compelling.
Note that phone and cable companies already offer some of those services through subscriptions
that elevate them from being mere "dump pipe" providers of network access.
But boosting Google services is not the objective of the testbed,
Whitt said. "The idea is not about pushing our own products and services. It's about creating next-generation products
and technologies and applications and doing it an open and robust manner," he said.
Google is looking for community partners--states,
counties, cities--for the project, with a March 26 deadline for getting in touch. Google's selections will be announced later
if all things come together, we'd like to begin providing service toward the end of the year," Whitt said.
The work will involve
more than just the "last mile" of net access, he said.
"We're building in very high capacity fiber to the homes. Beyond that,
we have to build out the middle mile. That's got to be part of the whole network build," he said. "There are challenges
in other parts of the network and we hope to tackle those at the same time."
And the next-generation Net addressing system, Internet Protocol
version 6, could be part of the plan, too.
"Vint Cerf is pushing IPv6," Whitt said, referring to the Internet pioneer who's
now Google's chief Internet evangelist. "My guess is he won't allow us to get away with running a network that doesn't
have some IPv6 capabilities in there."
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced the activation of an ultra-high speed network
connection for scientists, researchers and educators at universities and National Laboratories that is at least ten times
faster than commercial Internet providers. The project – funded with $62 million from the 2009 economic stimulus law
– is intended for research use but could pave the way for widespread commercial use of similar technology.
“While this breakthrough
will make sharing information between our labs much more efficient, its potential goes far beyond that,” said Secretary
of Energy Steven Chu. “This faster speed at which data can be shared could pioneer the next era of Internet innovations,
changing and improving our lives much like the original commercialization of the Internet did in the mid-90s."
If this network drives
innovation that finds its way into widespread commercial use, it will be an example of history repeating itself – since
the World Wide Web has its origins with high energy physicists at CERN who needed a better, faster way to share their data.
Physicists in the United States, including Energy Department laboratories like Fermilab and the Stanford Linear Accelerator,
were also among the earliest pioneers.
It is this same fundamental need – sharing scientific data and linking computer networks together – that
is driving the next generation of high speed Internet connection technology.
WHAT DOES 100 GBPS MEAN?
While the technology is advancing rapidly,
the fastest commercial Internet providers use fiberoptic cables that enable a network to deliver about 10 gigabits per second.
But that capacity must be split up among many consumers in the area, so a residential consumer might actually experience high
speed Internet service in the range of 10 megabits per second. A megabit is one thousandth of a gigabit, so that's .01 gbps.
areas, consumers on a more expensive service plan might get roughly .05 gbps. A 4G cell phone is in roughly the same ballpark
of about .01 gbps. The new 100 gbps network connection is therefore able to transmit data among scientists about 10,000 times
faster than your iPhone.
Here's another way to look at it. In the roughly one hour it takes a typical home Internet connection to download
an HD movie, the Department's network could download, for example, 20 years of data from the Hubble space telescope.
ABOUT THE ESNET NETWORK
The new 100 gbps connection is actually
an upgrade to the Department's existing Energy Sciences Network (ESnet). ESnet is a national network that connects thousands
of DOE researchers at more than 40 different national laboratories and supercomputing facilities, and links them to research
partners around the world. ESnet will build on this initial connection to upgrade its entire nationwide network so that it
operates at this faster speed.
This will include expanding to connect DOE’s three supercomputing centers – at Argonne, Oak Ridge, and
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories – over the next few months. By the end of 2012, ESnet will further expand the
network to link all of the DOE national lab sites, enabling them with greater speed, capacity and services to researchers.
A demonstration of the 100G capabilities
is planned for November 12-18, 2011, at the upcoming Super Computing 2011 (SC11) conference in Seattle, Washington.