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Google broadband plan draws interest, Monday morning quarterbacking

Few companies draw the attention and instant analysis that Google does. Soon after the search giant announced on Wednesday its plans for trials of ultra-fast broadband service, cities including Seattle said they would apply. Rochester, New York said it wants the fiber-to-home networks too. And just as quickly came a host of interpretations of the company’s move.

Some observers questioned Google's motives beyond its stated hope to experiment with new applications at 1 gigabyte-per-second speeds on its fiber networks.

Randolf May of the Free State Foundation, a free-market think-tank, said: “Forgive me for being a skeptic, but I think Google’s announcement is more public relations ploy than anything else.” He recalled that the company two years ago was a strong advocate of a government auction of a swath of spectrum with net-neutrality and open-access conditions. Google said it was interested in building out a wireless network but never did.

Now, with the Federal Communications Commission in the middle of crafting controversial net neutrality rules for all Internet service providers, May said Google is again trying to influence policymakers.

“Call me when Google actually builds and operates a broadband network on anything other than a limited basis,” said May, whose organization is funded in part by telecom and high-tech firms. “Until then, this is like Google threatening to pull out of China.Hasn’t happened, and don’t bet on it.”

Craig Moffett, an analyst at Sanford Bernstein, suggested in a note on Thursday that Google coordinated its announcement with the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. He said the FCC's push for net-neutrality rules has hit road bumps with a legal challenge to the agency’s authority over Internet service providers. Moffett said that Genachowski was prepared with a statement just moments after Google’s announcement.

A spokesperson at the FCC dismissed the accusation: “As is the case with nearly all major announcements in the communications sector, the FCC received a heads up.” But the spokesperson declined to comment further.

Google said in its blog Wednesday that it does not intend to be a national broadband network provider. The trials, it said, are meant to show what is possible with such network speeds and motivate the nation’s biggest carriers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

Susan Crawford, a professor of law at the University of Michigan, said even if 50,000 homes were served with Google’s network, the ultrafast speeds would influence the industry and spur competitors to increase speeds.

“This is a truly significant announcement,” she wrote in a blog entry. “We’ll learn so much about how much it really costs to bring high speeds to communities. We won’t have to rely on the carriers’ doomsaying about these expenses (”Hundreds of billions of dollars!”).”

Crawford, a former economic adviser to President Obama outlined other ways the move would influence the industry:

“We’ll learn what applications people want to use. Right now the network providers can say that the market isn’t clamoring for high speeds -- but that may be because high speeds aren’t available.”

And with Google’s promise to make the network open for any service provider, federal regulators will watch to see if that model is one that should be emulated across the country.

“The US abandoned this approach at the behest of our incumbents while other countries moved down this path with great success,” Crawford wrote.

By Cecilia Kang  |  February 12, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  AT&T , Broadband , Comcast , FCC , Net Neutrality  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Google pushes Web's speed limits
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The article neglects to mention that Ms. Susan Crawford, quoted above, has actively advocated the nationalization of the Internet in her blog.("We haven't nationalized an industry in a while," she writes at It is also worth noting that Ms. Crawford was handpicked by Google -- which contributed nearly $1 million to the Obama campaign and hence was able to place advisors within the Administration -- to do its work within the Obama Administration during the transition and at the beginning of the President's term, influencing policy and legislation so as to advantage Google and its corporate agenda.

Ms. Crawford is Google's direct beneficiary, and government-subsidized networks which compete with private businesses would be the first step toward the nationalization of the Internet that Ms. Crawford advocates. This is why she speaks so favorably of Google's plan.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | February 12, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

"t is also worth noting that Ms. Crawford was handpicked by Google... to do its work within the Obama Administration during the transition and at the beginning of the President's term, influencing policy and legislation so as to advantage Google and its corporate agenda."

Brett, do you actually have any evidence for this allegation? Or are you just making $h*t up again, as you often do.

Hey WaPo moderator, why do you continue to allow Brett to slander people? Ban him for life already.

Posted by: AmyBandini | February 15, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Amy, it's your remarks -- not mine -- that are slanderous. Susan Crawford's connections to Google (for example, the company's contributions to the lobbying groups in which she has been involved) are well known, as is her ceaseless lobbying for Google's "network neutrality" agenda. Her advocacy for Google's plan to scan entire libraries without compensating the authors of the books is also quite public. Yes, she was hand-picked by Google to be their representative in the White House.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | February 15, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

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