Monday, March 8, 2010

Thoughts on Google Fiber for Appleton / ISPs

Tonight I attended a public hearing at Appleton City Hall (PDF) regarding the city's consideration to submit a response to Google's request for information on the Google Fiber for Communities experiment. (Don't miss Google's project overview and other linked pages.) Also, please join the Google Fiber for Appleton Facebook group.

I was pleasantly surprised to see this public hearing bring the attention of Green Bay TV stations WFRV / CBS channel 5 and WGBA / NBC channel 26. The public hearing started late due to another meeting in the same room. There were probably a few more than 20 people in attendance, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. This echoed the current status of the City of Appleton's Survey, which was mentioned to also be overwhelmingly in favor of submitting a proposal. In general, the responses given at the hearing were mostly focused on the points that Appleton should proceed with submitting a favorable proposal in order to remain competitive as a community, to bring additional competition and choices for Internet service, and many other convincing reasons.

There were only 3 responses against: 2 from AT&T representatives in attendance for somewhat obvious reasons in concern for their business, and 1 gentleman concerned with the physical cost necessary to connect to connect gigabit networking to his Apple computer. (He apparently assumed that the fiber would need to be connected directly to his computer. Most computers sold in the past few years already have gigabit Ethernet cards, or they are readily available for less than $50. Additionally, there are many potential uses beyond a computer, such as video and other multimedia.) As also mentioned by another resident at the meeting, even being able to connect at only 100 Mbps (vs. the 1 Gbps / 1,000 Mbps being advertised) would still be about 10x faster than most consumer broadband connections available today.

My Own Thoughts

In general, additional competition for residential Internet service can only be a good thing - whether that competition is from Google or another provider. At my current residence in an apartment just outside the official city limits (in Grand Chute, near the Fox River Mall), my choices for broadband Internet are currently limited to Time Warner Cable and DSL. Wireless / "3G" was tried, and is not current viable for primary / serious use as previously detailed. Interestingly, the reps from AT&T at the hearing used their wireless network as one of their primary arguments against submitting a proposal to Google. After looking into Time Warner Cable, they presented themselves as one of the shadiest operations in town, at least based upon my experience at their local office. I'm currently using AT&T's DSL. While I would like to sign-up for AT&T U-Verse, I'm told that it is not available to my particular building, despite several of my neighbors in very close proximity having the service.

Unlike many of the comments and hype, I would hope that Google's offering is not all about the speed - even though, unfortunately, this is all many residential consumers are aware of or take into consideration. A few questions to consider of any ISP:

  • In addition to the speed, what is the latency (or lag)?
  • What is the support for IPv6?
  • Are industry standards properly followed, such as RFC 2308 - Negative Caching of DNS Queries? Or is the ISP involved in DNS hijacking?
  • Is service advertised as "unlimited" truly unlimited, or are there limits involved that are only shown in fine print, if at all?
  • What is the ISP's stance on network neutrality?
  • What support / allowance is there for operating as a server - either a web server, or something more "residential" such as allowing remote desktop connections, allowing for peer-to-peer file transfers, or playing games that require being able to accept incoming network connections?
  • What are the results from the ICSI Netalyzer hosted by UC Berkeley, which tests for most of the above as well other issues?

Google, in particular, has a positive record for properly supporting the above requirements and avoiding the listed issues:

I can't imagine that Google wouldn't uphold the same principals in providing their own Internet service.

(On a humorous note, I can't help but recall Google's previous ISP / fiber offering: Google TiSP.)

Even if Appleton submits a proposal for and is accepted as a location for Google Fiber, there is no guarantee that I would be in the service area - especially being in a neighboring town. However, I have no doubt that I would still benefit from the increased competition. Additionally, once we're back in the market to buy a a house in the area, the availability of Google Fiber would be a serious consideration. (Someone please buy our house for sale in Wausau! - which happens to be wired with Cat-6 for Gigabit networking.)

1 comment:

Raymond said...

Great write up, I hope Appleton is able to get Google Fiber, I think it would be great for the city and looks to be a great affordable alternative to choose.