My tech story on FoxCT today is about Google’s plunge into the cable TV/Internet provider market¹. They are about to wire Kansas City with fiber to-the-home. That’s the holy grail for online speed addicts! It’s very exciting to geeks like me.
For non-geeks it means
Comcast Google is bringing competition to cable, an industry that mostly operates in monopolistic fiefdoms.
Google has made the loudest noise talking about the Internet aspect of the deal. That says a lot about the future of television and broadcasting, doesn’t it. Scary for me.
For $120/month subscribers will get hundreds of channels of HD programming (Google has not yet made deals with all the cable channels including many big names like ESPN, so exact lineup is still fuzzy) plus 1 gigabit bidirectional Internet service with no caps or restrictions. I checked today. My download speed is 1/50th of Google’s! My upload speed is slower still.
Because fiber has much more available bandwidth the quality of video, even from broadcasters like my station, should be far superior. Right now cable and satellite heavily compress broadcasters signals. They’re trying to squeeze as much into their coax as will fit. You can see the difference.
For $70 Google will offer a 1 gigabit Internet only package. This is a nod to the growing (but still small) community of cable cutters.
Beyond that, for a $300 installation charge (waived on the other plans) Google will provide 5 megabit Internet access guaranteed free for seven years! Somehow Google has figured out how to install fiber for under $300. When Verizon was still rolling out FIOS their cost was north of $600.
On paper (and without knowing the full TV Channel lineup) Google’s offering is looks superior to traditional cable.
With some minor exceptions cable’s never really been in a competitive situation. You’ve got to figure they’ll offer something better or cheaper than today’s packages.
As bad as cable’s reputation for customer service is, Google’s is worse! Try reaching a human should your Gmail fail or Google removes your website from its search engine! Will they fix that? Is Google even capable of meaningful human-to-human contact?
Lots of people will be watching what goes on in Kansas City. Most likely blood will be spilled. Both Google and the cable operators have lots of cash to throw around and a vested interest in protecting their turf.
Who knows, the public may even benefit! How often does that happen?
¹ – Disclosure: I own a small position in Comcast within my 401-K. Comcast owns WVIT, one of our competitors at FoxCT.