Does Google need more fiber in its diet?

by Mathew on January 20, 2007 · 9 comments

Rumours that Google has acquired large quantities of fiber (or fibre, as we Canadians call it) are not exactly new. I recall stories as far back as two years ago saying exactly the same thing. In fact, if you check the date on this particular story from CNet about Google buying up “dark” fiber, you’ll see that it was published two years — almost to the day — before this column by Robert X. Cringely, the pseudonymous tech columnist and blogger for PBS.

In the CNet story, the idea was put forward that Google was planning to set up its own telecommunications network, that maybe it would start a VoIP service based on Google Talk, and so on. There have been other stories too, including this one from ZDNet in 2005, which also mentioned the VoIP idea, and this one in 2006 — which proposed that Google was planning to use the bandwidth for something related to IPv6, or maybe VoIP, or maybe a grid computing network.

fibre optic.jpg

Om Malik wrote a piece in 2005 for Business 2.0 about how Google could build its own backbone, which he called Googlenet, and then use that to cut the costs it was paying to ISPs for peering arrangements to carry its data — and could also offer its own Internet access by blanketing various centers with free Wi-Fi. He and Cynthia Brumfield at IPDemocracy both mentioned that Google was taking bids for a nationwide optical network.

Cringely’s idea is that Google wants to effectively become the world’s largest ISP, and that as video and other applications suck up bandwidth, smaller ISPs who are losing money will effectively sign over their businesses to Google. I think it is more likely that Om is right — and so is this guy over at Slashdot — and Google is simply engaged in hedging. In other words, it is expecting peering costs to rise (especially so if net neutrality rules are not adopted), and so it is buying up as much bandwidth as it can to keep its costs low.

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  • engtech

    Spot on.

    Google is very smart about details like power and bandwidth that other companies that don’t deal with data centers of that size would never even think of.

  • tomo


    Google would benefit by controling the user experience from end to end as it gives them all sorts of contol over the packets…some application make take higher priority than others, ie. VoIP traffic gets priority over RSS traffic if they are competing for bandwidth. While this may be able to be accomoplished via software on routers, switches, etc. the serivce provider, as in telco, cable co, etc, has the ultimate control. . In order to truly control user experience they need to own or at least have some authority over the last mile such that they can prioritize packets based on their products. My take is that they will rely upon wireless to do so. What’s interesting is that they are doing this totally off the radar(or at least attempting to), are building these monstrous datacenters for the purpose of supporting a platform for delivery of services(formerly known as software among other things) and are doing it in a way that is more effiicient than anyone else.

    Sounds far fetched but look at the management team. Huber and Rosenburg tried this once before at @Home Network but were likely ahead of their time. Urs has publicly stated that power companies should give pc’s away because they’ll make more money by selling customers the power to run the pc’s than it will cost them to give away which is why it would not be too unlikely to see them roll out free inet access globally….similar to what they do in Mt View.

    So one day you will have your email, your office apps, your tv or vod, your dial tone, your music, your personal publishing, etc all hosted by google all for free and even with free access to it because they’ll be able to deliver the most customized delivery of advertising that the world has ever been exposed to. No joke, it’s happening while politicians and others ignorant folks try to cry wolf over the telcos and net neutrality and open access and all that other crap which is smoke and mirrors while google sneaks up behind everyone and steals the eggs right from under the chicken.

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