What does Google get from supercharging Kansas City’s Internet?

why google will never take its fiber national kansas hWe get it: Google Fiber is amazing. Netflix says it’s the most consistently fast ISP in America. Analysts from BTIG Research visited Kansas City last month and were “blown away,” by the service, according to Business Insider — which makes me think of a couple of guys in suits plugging in their laptops and getting blasted across a hotel room — and tech startups are banding together and buying houses on the fiber build-out roadmap to circumvent Google’s current “residents only” policy (although according to the Google spokeswoman I talked to, this will soon change). The lure of symmetrical gigabit Internet, affordably priced and consistently delivered, is a strong one. Shangri-La is real, and it’s wearing a Chiefs jersey.

If Google Chairman Eric Schmidt is to be believed, Shangri-La may also be coming to a town near you. Yesterday, at the New York Times Dealbook Conference, Schmidt told the audience that the Kansas City rollout was “not an experiment,” and that Google is “trying to decide now” where next to expand the service. That got lots of people talking about how far Google may be willing to take its fiber bet, speculating that a nationwide rollout of gigabit Internet by the search giant might only be a matter of time.

That’s not going to happen.

Google is going to keep its future plans very close to the vest as the Kansas City “non-experiment” pans out, but analysts with Goldman Sachs last week released their own report on the estimated cost of Google carrying its next-gen broadband to every home in America. That number: $140 billion. Google currently holds $46 billion in cash, about $100 billion shy of the necessary amount, which only makes clearer the truly monumental scope of such an undertaking. What’s more, Google only spends about 10% of its reserves each year on capital expenditures. If you take this into account, the math is simple. Google can’t afford to become an ISP. When I asked a Google spokeswoman if the company had plans to expand even beyond Kansas City in the foreseeable future, her response was telling: “We are very committed to our users in Kansas City.”

This is upsetting for a great many reasons. Although the speed of Google fiber is like Spanish Fly for many of today’s data-hungry users and businesses, it is Google’s overall approach to the business of broadband delivery that’s so refreshing. The prices are reasonable — $70 a month for up to one Gbps — yes, about 1,000 times faster than basic DSL service — or 5Mpbs for free and guaranteed for 7 years, as long as you pay the $300 installation fee. Add another $50 and you get all that speed plus about 200 channels of uncompressed HD television. TV comes with a 2TB DVR that records 8 programs simultaneously, 1 TB of Google Drive cloud storage, and a Nexus 7 to use as a remote control. No data caps.

And the best part is that when Google tells you it is coming to set up your service, it will actually show up, no nebulous and Kafka-esque time slots, no being forced to take a whole day off of work only to wait in vain for the installation van that never comes. It’s almost as if Google is trying to embarrass the cable and phone companies that the rest of us have to put up with. “It doesn’t have to be this way,” whispers Sergey Brin in his vaguely Russian accent.

Why Fiber?

If you are one of the lucky few Kansas City natives to have already signed up for Google Fiber, I don’t begrudge you one megabit; your ancestors had to deal with the Dust Bowl, you deserve a little extra bandwidth. But at its heart, Google’s attempt at being its own ISP is much more about forcing the entrenched service providers — the Verizon’s and Time Warner’s and AT&T’s of this world — to step up their games than it is about making this particular business a raving financial success. When I asked the Google spokeswoman what the ultimate goal of all this was, she replied that Google wants “to make the web better and faster for all users.” The implication is that they don’t necessarily want to do it all by themselves.

The way I see it, Google must feel like we are still living in the age of the 56k dialup modem. According to the research group LRG, 90% of households in the US that have a computer at home now have a broadband Internet connection. That’s a staggering figure, a number that would have seemed unfathomable just 5 years ago. The problem, however, is that even with all our broadband connections, we still only rank 15th in the world according to Akamai’s fast broadband list. Think of all the innovation that has come about as a direct result of that broadband connectedness: The web as we know it has been completely revolutionized by Internet speed. Youtube, Netflix, Dropbox, Instagram, the list is endless. All this with speeds in 2012 in the US averaging around 6 Mbps. Keep up this line of thought and you realize the inherent value to Google in moving us all to the web’s next chapter; remember, Google is first and foremost an advertising agency masquerading as a tech company. Every major innovation it has introduced in the software and hardware realm — from Gmail to Android to Chrome — has been in service of expanding and refining its ability to advertise to you. And who knows, who has the slightest inkling how profoundly affordable gigabit Internet could change the way we all use the web. No, Google doesn’t really want to own the pipes you use to get online — it could care less who owns them — Google just wants new ways to sell you stuff. That whole process starts with the ISP’s, and if those dinosaurs are unwilling or unable to move fast enough — hey — maybe Google will show them how it’s done.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Gaming

Yoshi’s Crafted World proves without a doubt that Mario was a monster

Remember how Mario repeatedly punched Yoshi in the back of the head in Super Mario World? Well, Yoshi's Crafted World, an insanely charming platformer, demonstrates how lovingly Yoshis treat each other -- unlike that wretched Mario.
Home Theater

There isn’t a single good reason to buy Apple’s new AirPods

After nearly a three-year wait, Apple has finally announced a new version of its popular true wireless headphones, the AirPods. We had high hopes for vast improvements, but that's not what we got.
Gaming

The Division 2 offers nothing but a funhouse mirror of America

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 improves on the design shortcomings of the original game in several different ways, but its version of Washington D.C. is completely removed from reality.
Home Theater

Yesterday’s Apple event was a whiplash-inducing parade of copycat services

Apple showed off a massive barrage of news, streaming, and gaming bundles at its Showtime event aimed at boosting its services and adding more revenue. But while the services are big on celebrities, they appear short on innovation.
Movies & TV

Deconstructing the Marvel method: How DC movies finally found their groove

Warner Bros. Pictures superhero universe based on DC Comics heroes and villains had a rough start, but the success of the last few films have suggested that audiences have reason to be optimistic about the future of the DC Extended…
Gaming

Brace yourself. Sony’s PlayStation 5 is going to be expensive

How much will Sony's PlayStation 5 cost? Official pricing will stay under wraps for months, but early details provide enough information to make a guess. Our estimate suggests the price will be higher than fans expect to pay.
Movies & TV

HBO and Game of Thrones should learn a lesson from Netflix and Stranger Things

By embracing technologies like 4K, HDR, and high-bitrate audio, Netflix delivers its premium content to your living room with the same care with which it was created. Why doesn’t HBO do the same with ‘Game of Thrones’?
Gaming

An ode to Cuphead: One of the most lovable games of all time

Revisiting Cuphead on Nintendo Switch is just as memorable as it was on Xbox One nearly two years ago. Cuphead's aesthetic has a magical quality that transports you back to the childhood joy of discovery.
Movies & TV

You’re doing it wrong! Here’s the perfect way to watch the Star Wars films

There's more to making the perfect Star Wars movie marathon than just collecting all of the movies. You also need to decide when to watch each of them. Let us propose an altogether different Star Wars viewing order.
Computing

Surface, Windows, and everything else Microsoft skipped at Build 2019

Microsoft's annual developers conference had plenty of updates on what the company is doing in the cloud computing space. But what about Surface? Or how about Windows? Microsoft was silent on these fronts, and that was a missed opportunity.
Computing

Who is Microsoft’s new Edge browser for? Probably not you or me

Microsoft's new Chromium-based Edge is shaping up best for enterprise users, but that doesn't mean it offers nothing at all for the consumer. But what's clear is that right now, nobody really knows.
Movies & TV

Why Thor is the key to the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Avengers: Endgame

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is facing an uncertain future after the events of Avengers: Endgame, but Thor could be the key to moving forward. Here's why the God of Thunder is so important.
Gaming

Google’s Stadia plans to make launch woes a relic of gaming history

Launch problems have sunk numerous recent releases including Bioware's Anthem and Bethesda's Fallout 76. Google Stadia is positioning itself as the solution, but can it convince the world's biggest game developers?
Movies & TV

That Game of Thrones re-do petition is more embarrassing than any coffee cup

The Game of Thrones fan petition to remake the show's final season isn't just silly. It's a misunderstanding of the relationship between shows and their audience, among many, many other things.