Google Gives Cheap Internet, But Apparently Not Enough Of It

Google Fiber sounds awesome. My biggest problem with Google Fiber is that I don’t have it yet. However, I’m confident that the inroads they’re making are important steps in closing the broadband gap in the U.S. compared to our counterparts in Europe and Asia.*

So why the hate, Newsweek? I think their concerns of a cycle of perpetual broadband obsolescence is vastly overstated by Google picking some winners right now. While I believe companies only act out of self-interest, that doesn’t mean their self interest doesn’t sometimes result in positive externalities for the rest of the us. Reading this argument that some people are going to be left in the dark ages reminds me of the early concerns of the PC, home-computing era. At first, home computers were $5k at the entry level. By 1981, the flagship IBM PC cost “only” $1500: a new Corolla was ~$2k. Fast forward to the mid 90s and suddenly a $500-$900 computer (some with internet!) was already in a substantial minority of homes. Nowadays, most of us carry around a computer in our jeans more powerful than anything available in 1995. (Co-author not included). In fact, something this article didn’t touch on- for minorities and people living in Africa, the mobile phone represents a major step forward in availability of fast internet.

New technology almost always benefits those who are able to afford it first. There is never going to be a way around that. However, time and time again has shown that those benefits end up coming to everyone. There’s no reason to think the situation here will be unique in that regard.**

*Wow, Italy has some slow broadband. That country really is broken in so many ways…
**Especially if you consider that other self-interested companies like Netflix have a vested interest in promoting fast internet for everyone.