According to this article in the Business Courier, City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and a group of startup executives would like to bring Google Fiber to town. Google Fiber is a high-speed broadband service that Google is currently providing in Provo, UT, Austin, TX, and Kansas City, KS/MO. Google claims that its broadband service is much faster than existing broadband service — 1000 mbps vs. 50 mbps, the fastest service Time Warner provides to the Cincinnati market. Google Fiber is currently looking to expand to 9 more metro areas, covering more than 30 cities.
In Provo, Google Fiber is offering basic internet for free, but that’s at the 5 mbps level. That’s OK, but as they say, you get what you pay for. To get the 1000 mbps service, you have to pay $70/month. To get 1000 mbps service and Google TV, it’s $120/month. For most users, 30 to 50 mbps is probably more than enough for normal home use, even when House of Cards releases all episodes of Season 3 all at once. Businesses with multiple users needing internet access might find the 1000 mbps attractive.
Bringing Google Fiber to Cincinnati will have two key impacts. First, the free internet service will be a significant benefit to lower-income households. Free is always better than having to pay out $15 to $20/month, especially when every penny counts. Giving lower-income households better access to the internet will particularly help their school-age children.
The second impact is providing a real alternative to the local cable provider. If you have followed the news about the potential merger between Comcast and Time Warner, no doubt you saw Comcast’s absurd statement that Comcast and Time Warner don’t compete in hardly any markets, therefore there is no anti-competitive effect. They took care of the competition years ago, by carving up markets so that each cable provider would have a monopoly (or as they call it, a franchise). What Comcast really meant was that the merger would have no further anti-competitive effect. Aside from cable TV, however, many people get their internet service from their cable TV provider. The merger of Comcast and Time Warner would give Comcast unprecedented control over access to the internet, and would threaten net neutrality. A credible competitor like Google Fiber would act as an important check on Comcast’s power over internet access, especially given the likelihood that the government will do nothing to stop the merger.