So I saw this absurd story the other day about how AT&T is claiming the backbone of the Internet will crumble under all the traffic by 2010. Then Lani and a couple of personal friends forwarded me the article asking my thoughts.
Where I Get These Crazy Ideas
I have a fairly lengthy background with networking, both wired and wireless. Over five years ago, my father was working for a giant technology corporation working to maximize the efficiency of bandwidth over existing infrastructure. They have been developing this with some of the largest wireless handset, computer hardware and software manufacturers in the world.
I spent several years working for AT&T Wireless. Many people believe that with wireless, we won’t need the infrastructure in the ground. The problem is, all of the towers your cell phones and laptops connect to are plugged into the same infrastructure.
Most of the video you now watch online is played via Flash because it uses some of the most efficient encoding methodspossible. I’ve been using Adobe/Macromedia products for a long time and I can easily say, they don’t stop making their products better.
Okay, I love Google. In this context though, they have purchased vast amounts of “dark fiber”, invested in large undersea cable projects and lobbied for open wireless standards on abandoned frequencies. Huh?
Dark Fiber is fiber-optic infrastructure built out in the last 1990s that went unused. Analysts think Google has purchased $1.25 billion worth of this unused fiber across the country. That could probably manage some overflow from AT&T’s network.
Asia-Pacific is very bandwidth-hungry and business ties only continue to increase, so adding additional infrastructure across the pacific is very beneficial for all parties involved.
You may have heard of the large 700 MHz frequency auction…oh, you didn’t? Okay, I’m a nerd. A lot of very valuable wireless spectrum was opened up when TV went digital. All of the typical players like Verizon Wireless and AT&T wanted this spectrum. The FCC required that it be an open standard, allowing all protocols and hardware to have access to the infrastructure. Google has been accused of “gamed” the auction by bidding up to a certain point which included the open standard compliance.
Google has also recently been lobbying to gain open access to wireless “white space”, the little pieces of unused frequency between the wireless bands.
Why I’m Not Concerned
AT&T is smart. Verizon is smart. Comcast and Time Warner are smart. They are constantly developing new standards to make transmission more efficient across their current infrastructure. I think the issue we need to fear is that this is all a setup to charge people more for different types of service. If I want to watch Hulu.com, I get to pay more than someone who just wants to check email. I’m sure BitTorrent users would have to pay the most.
I don’t care because I believe Google is smarter. They have the in-ground infrastructure. They have great lobbyists that will probably help them get the white space they want. And they have access to the new frequency that AT&T and Verizon Wireless are having to pay for. I have full faith and confidence that Google is poised and ready to roll out some type of service should AT&T and/or Verizon begin to start charging based on usage. Google is in favor of Net Neutrality, which would keep pricing fixed and not based on specific services.
Maybe I Should Be Concerned
Our activities are very bandwidth-intensive. From the hundreds of photos of a listing to the video tours you’re creating to your mass email campaigns, the real estate industry uses a lot of bandwidth. Any changes that may come about could potentially be another cost of doing business. I personally doubt it will get that far though.
I, For One, Welcome Our Dark Fiber White Space Wielding Do No Evil Google Overlords
I switched from Comcast to Verizon FIOS as soon as I could because I was tired of Comcast always trying to stick it to me. Verizon isn’t much better. Google may not be any better, but I think it’s safe to assume a lot of people would jump ship simply because they’re tired of what they have now.