Sonifi, a hotel-technology vendor is working on a guestroom-TV solution that integrates Google Cast functionality in to the hotel room TVs with the ability to stream via the hotel’s public-access Wi-FI network. This was one of the first “integrated Chromecast” setups that I have heard of where you can benefit from Google Chromecast functionality without you needing to plug in a Chromecast HDMI dongle in to your TV.
Now Google have taken this concept further with the Google Fiber TV package where the set-top box has the Google Cast functionality integrated in it. Here, the client device such as your laptop, tablet or smartphone is connected to the same home network as the Google Fiber TV set-top box like what would happen with your Chromecast. You would also perform the same procedures for streaming your app’s output or Web page through the TV as you would if you were using a Chromecast.
This concept can work well if Google continues to license their Google Cast software to other companies who manufacture smart TVs or network-capable video peripherals so as to keep this functionality as a product differentiator. Similarly, pay-TV providers and multiple-play telecommunications providers could have Google Cast as a differentiator for their set-top boxes that are part of their TV services especially where the market is highly competitive. The Google Cast Audio concept can also work well with network-capable audio equipment and Google could extend the logic so that if you are “Casting” an audio-only source like Spotify, Pandora or TuneIn Radio, these sources are by default sent to the Google Cast Audio endpoints.
It certainly shows that Google can put forward their Chromecast technology as something that can viably compete with the Apple TV ecosystem and could even coexist with Miracast and other platforms that are “possessed” by a particular brand.
A situation that is surfacing in the USA is that AT&T are litigating the City Of Louisville, Kentucky because this local government are implementing a “one-touch make-ready” policy concerning their power infrastructure being made ready for the provision of competing Internet service.
What is “dig-once” or “one-touch make-ready”?
An issue that always surfaces with the “pits, poles and pipes” infrastructure managed by utilities and telecommunications providers is being able to prepare this infrastructure at an early point including positioning the existing operator’s wiring and equipment in a manner that subsequent operators can use those pits, poles or pipes. The idea is to avoid the waiting time that an operator (and their potential customers) have to face along with the disturbance associated with long high-noise construction activity that is needed to prepare infrastructure for another operator’s use.
This policy is know as “dig once” for underground infrastructure or “one-touch make ready” for overhead infrastructure.
The USA situation
Most of the power-line infrastructure between the substations and the end-users in the USA is owned by a city’s or county’s local government or a utility company owned or managed by that local government. AT&T, Comcast and other established operators don’t like the idea of a local government facilitating competitive Internet and pay-TV service so they have had state governments write laws to frustrate the provision of Internet service by local governments such as municipal Wi-Fi hotzones.
The fact that a local government implements a “dig-once” or “one-touch make-ready” policy on the infrastructure it owns is considered a threat to the incumbent operator’s monopolistic behaviour because it is simply facilitating a competitor’s access to the pits, poles and pipes owned by the local government or its public utilities entity. AT&T reckons that what happens with “pits, poles and pipes” is under the control of the state government rather than a local government and that they see it as “seizing” their property if AT&T’s wiring is rearranged by a local government or other entities preparing poles for access by other operators.
Who can effectively provide and manage “pits, poles, pipes and towers” infrastructure?
What is surfacing is a courtroom debate about how a local government or utility company can manage their “pits, poles and pipes” infrastructure in the context of facilitating the use of this infrastructure by other operators. Louisville’s local government, Google FIber and other organisations intent on seeing real competition in the USA’s fixed-broadband market are defending or providing moral support for the defence of this policy.
In some ways, this case could affect how access rights, leases and easements on private land for utilities and telecommunications services are granted; along with how independently-owned “pits, poles, pipes and towers” infrastructure is operated. This can range from a fire brigade providing space on its radio tower or a building owner leasing the top of their tall building to radio-based communications providers; a property owner providing a “once-and-for-all” easement for multiple local telecommunications providers to use; or an apartment block or similar development being wired up for one or more broadband services alongside the established telephony and cable providers.
Here, the question that could be raised is the amount of power established operators can have over the same physical infrastructure when it comes to admitting other operators and whether the infrastructure’s owners can set standards concerning the operators “wires’, antennas and equipment”.
This is a case that is of interest to anyone like public or private entities who are in a position to provide infrastructure along with service providers who want to provide competing telecommunications service.
It is easy to doubt that next-generation fibre-optic broadband would show up in Alabama, one of the most conservative of the states in the USA. But Huntsville, a city with 180,000 people, has taken the challenge.
This is because Huntsville has been found to be the best educated metropolitan area in Alabama and has been known as “Rocket City” due to the US Missile Command and NASA setting up shop there, thus leading to an increase in the number of engineers in that city.
The local government in Huntsville have, with the co-operation of Huntsville Utilities are laying down fibre-optic infrastructure as part of establishing a 21st-century smart power grid in that city. But they facilitated Google setting up their Google Fiber next-generation FTTP broadband service by leasing the infrastructure to Google Fiber. Tommy Battle, the Mayor of Huntsville and Jay Stowe, the CEO of Huntsville Utilities has put his weight behind this effort. As well, the arrival of Google Fiber in Huntsville would strengthen that city’s credibility as a tech centre especially where a lot of research data is being exchanged.
If Google were to set up their Google Fiber next-generation broadband network, they either would have to create their own network, purchase an existing fibre-optic network like a “dark-fibre” network or lease bandwidth on an operational network. By leasing the network from Huntsville Utilities, they would be foregoing the control they have over the infrastructure but would be saving on the start-up time and capital expenditure for establishing or increasing their footprint.
Hut Huntsville could explore the feasibility of allowing multiple competing ISPs and telcos to operate on this same infrastructure to open the path for increased service-level competition in that city. This is similar to what is being undertaken in a lot of Europe and Oceania where multiple operators are able to rent space on the same infrastructure.
It also is a way to prove to other US cities and states that municipal-owned or state-owned infrastructure that competes with the established “Baby-Bell” telco or cable-TV company isn’t necessarily a waste of taxpayers’ money as Comcast and AT&T would like us to believe. Rather the government can, through a separate entity, lease the infrastructure to competing operators and milk money from this leasing effort.
As well, this can be a chance for the communications industry to investigate the possibility of European-style service competition where competing services rent space on the same infrastructure and infrastructure owners can compete with each other when it comes to offering service to ISPs or enterprises.
Google Fiber have put their foot in the Portland soil by opening some local customer-service jobs in that Oregon City. This is also in addition to liaising with the city’s local government regarding the placement of fibre-optic huts. These are effectively the hubs that can provide the fibre-optic service to neighbourhoods of 40,000 households and businesses.
The Oregon state government are making this easier by working on nearly-complete legislation that provides various state-level tax breaks for Gigabit next-generation broadband deployments. I see this as a state-level proactive step to open up real competition for broadband and allied telecommunications services.
But Google are also eyeing bring real competition to Oklahoma City in Oklahoma along with Jacksonville and Tampa in Florida. These cities have signed up because they have a strong business and technology-driven economy that will benefit from the Google Fiber service.
Google have placed some requirements on the local governments to make the path clear for deployment of the fibre infrastructure including sharing city-infrastructure details. But they also have to deal with state governments that have passed legislation that prohibits the availability of Internet service that competes with local cable TV and “Baby Bell” interests.
As I have noticed from previous accounts, the arrival of Google Fiber in a US community has caused the local “Baby Bell” or cable-TV company to raise the bar as far as pricing and customer service goes. This is because they fear that customers in their locality will churn to Google Fiber as quickly as possible because of the improved value.
Similarly, Google have also used these deployments as a way o build up computer and Internet literacy in disadvantaged communities in some of the cities they touch like what has happened in Austin, Texas. This is because most business is being transacted online and some users like older people and blue-collar workers may find themselves floundering with this new life.
A competitive Internet service market coming to more US cities
Regular readers will know about Google Fiber showing up in an increasing number of US cities and bringing real competition to the US fixed-line broadband Internet market.
Before Google Fiber came to these cities, there was a very cosy cartel between the local “Baby Bell” telecommunications company who provided DSL Internet service and the local cable TV company who provided cable Internet service. This led to a woeful Internet experience where there wasn’t value for money and, in some cases, there was poor customer service, something that affected householders and small-business owners in most of the USA. The big telcos and the cable TV companies even were working with state governments to frustrate the creation of competitive services so that they can maintain the status quo.
Now the presence of Google Fiber has even raised the idea that you could sign up to AT&T’s 1Gbit/s GigaPower service for an ask of US$70 in Nashville or Atlanta while the same service would go for US$110. There was even a situation in Raleigh where the existing ISPs were deploying high-speed networks in that city with a photo of AT&T’s U-Verse announcement door hanger on someone’s front door appearing in the comments trail of that article.
Personally, I would see it become real that any American city that Google Fiber touches will become an attractive city to live or run a small business in because the costs of decent Internet service have reduced due to the arrival of competition.
Keep up the work, FCC and the competing Internet service providers including Google!
I have been covering Google Fiber’s rollout of competing fibre-optic Internet service to various communities in the US and how this is bringing about real competition to the communities’ Internet-service markets. Examples of this include an impending Google Fiber deployment in Raleigh, North Carolina putting the existing ISPs on notice with them offering a similar-speed Internet service to their customers.
Some more communities are now to be touched by this competitive spirit, this time in California where there is a strong start-up and IT-driven business culture. The Californian communities are Irvine, which was where Linksys started from, along with San Diego; while Louisville in Kentucky which has the “Code Louisville” software-development effort is also to benefit. IAt the moment, Google is “checking the boxes” by getting things worked out and approved with the various local governments, “chalking out” where utility lines are and the like so they can start working.
I wouldn’t put it past AT&T, the Big Red or Comcast to get their act together once they know this is going on and “sweeten the deal” for their subscriber bases to avoid the inevitable churn to Google Fiber before the soil is turned. Definitely, things are looking up for competitive Internet service in the USA.
Google had just started rolling out their Google Fiber next-generation broadband service in Raleigh, North Carolina. But even when Google announced the impending arrival of this service to that neighbourhood, the existing ISPs took notice and were suddenly on their good behaviour.
They were infact rolling out higher-speed networks or improving the speed of their networks in that area. Someone posted in to the article’s comments thread a picture of an AT&T door hanger on his front door announcing the arrival of their improved U-Verse fibre-optic service in the commenter’s neighbourhood.
What is showing up in that once some serious competition comes on the scene, the existing carriers will do their best to keep their customers. But Uncle Sam still needs to work hard to encourage this competition by overriding any state laws or local ordinances written at the behest of the cable-TV / Baby-Bell cartels that control the Internet service in those neighbourhoods.
Some communities in the US’s south are about to face the end of the cable-TV / Baby-Bell duopoly courtesy of some fibre-optic Gigabit broadband services being rolled in those areas.
Google Fiber has received approval to start deploying in San Antonio which is their second Texas-based deployment. But they are facing logistical issues that are caused by that city’s geography, especially the land mass and topography. They still insist that they can surmount these issues and what I see of this is that they can learn from this deployment on how to roll out fibre-optic Internet in to cities that have difficult terrain and can share it with the rest of the industry.
While down in Mississippi, C Spire have been at it themselves rolling out Gigabit-capable fibre infrastructure to offer competing Internet service in nine cities in that state. They are an independent provider who offer mobile-telephony service in some of the US”s Deep South but are cutting in to fixed-infrastructure Internet service.
One of these that has “lit up” this week is Clinton where they offer Gigabit Internet for US$70 per month, double-play Internet + phone for US$90 per month, double-play Internet + super HDTV for US$130 per month and a triple-play phone, Internet and TV for US$150 per month.
The deployment is supposedly based on interest and they are focusing on Southern communities which are in their mobile-telephony footprint and are capitalising on their existing fibre infrastructure. C Spire could also follow in Google FIber’s footsteps by sponsoring various computer-literacy programs targeted at disadvantaged communities and older generations.
As long as there are more companies offering to compete with the Baby Bell or the cable-TV company by offering better broadband for the US’s neighbourhoods, it could be a chance to raise the standard for Internet service value and quality.
With both these cities, Google reckons that the price for Internet service from their Google Fiber network will be similar to what has been called for Provo and Kansas City. This will typically be in the ballpark of US$70 / month for symmetrical Gigabit Internet service and US$130 / month for symmetrical Gigabit Internet plus pay-TV. They even offer a 6Mbps baseline Internet service for US$300 installation costs. Small businesses may end up with a business-grade symmetrical Gigabit service for US$100 / month.
As well, once Google has their Fiber footprint in a city, they also instigate community initiatives like computer literacy classes such as what they have done in Austin for that city’s public-housing communities. As well, situations do turn in the favour of customers when Google Fiber touches a city because there is real competition for residential and small-business Internet service.
I would reckon that Nashville and Salt Lake City are likely to see strong benefits from these rollouts with them becoming attractive to live or do business there along with properties that have this fibre-optic Internet service gaining value.
Those of you who subscribe to Google Fiber in Provo or Kansas City were limited by the fact that the fibre-optic next-generation broadband service was positioned just for residential users. This meant that you couldn’t really link up your home office, small business or community organisation to this service to benefit from real next-generation broadband.
Initially Google ran limited-participation program of their Google Fiber For Small Business service in Kansas City to see whether it would “cut the mustard” for a next-generation broadband service that you could trust your business to. Now they have launched the Google Fiber For Small Business service across their current footprint in Provo, Kansas City and Austin.
This is to provide Gigabit throughput along with a supplied router for USD$100 per month with static IPs at extra cost. I have written an article on this Website about getting your small business ready for whenever Google Fiber passes your doors and you sign up for it. Here, I was highlighting concepts like remote storage and cloud computing; telecommuting; VoIP and video telephony; IP-based video surveillance; and public-access Internet as well as drawing attention to your network equipment being up to the task such as supporting high throughput.
As Google provides competitive next-generation Internet service for small businesses, it could provide a real benefit to the small business’s bottom line when it comes to Internet-access costs and value-for-money.
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