If all goes well with Google’s high-speed broadband experiment in Kansas City, the search-engine giant may consider wiring up other cities across America.
Google first began connecting homes in Kansas City to its Google Fiber network in November 2012; over the next year, it plans on wiring an additional five neighborhoods. The company argues that the infrastructure will pay off for residents who want faster downloads, as well as community businesses in need of a big broadband pipe.
“Gigabit speeds will get rid of these pesky, archaic problems and open up new opportunities for the Web,” read a note posted on the Google Fiber Blog last summer. “Imagine: instantaneous sharing; truly global education; medical appointments with 3D imaging; even new industries that we haven’t even dreamed of, powered by a gig.”
Google has already expanded its public-infrastructure plans beyond Kansas City, blanketing New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood with free Wi-Fi. But it’s been an open question whether the company will replicate Google Fiber in other municipalities.
“We are still in the very early stages of it,” Google CEO Larry Page told media and analysts during the company’s Jan. 22 earnings call, according to a transcript. “Obviously, we are going to a small number of people and so, but we are excited about the possibilities.”
On the same call, Google CFO Patrick Pichette was a tad more clear: “We are going to continue to look at the possibility of expanding, but right now we just got to nail because we are in the early days. We just got to nail Kansas City.”
The first Google Fiber attempt, he added, is “a perfect place for us to kind of debug all of the elements of the product and the experience for the users, but all-in-all, what a great opportunity to deliver kind of 100 times the average feed and that’s what people are just dying to get everywhere.”
For the quarter ended Dec. 31, Google reported revenues of $14.42 billion, up 36 percent year-over-year and 8 percent from the previous quarter. The bulk of that revenue comes from advertising, although Google is exploring a number of businesses with the possibility of profit, including mobile devices and driverless cars. Indeed, perhaps the greatest threat to any one Google project is that the company will decide to winnow down its own portfolio in the name of efficiency.
“Our biggest challenge in this area is focus,” Page told media and analysts. “We don’t want to describe ourselves too thin, but I am quite optimistic that as we get better and better in managing our product areas, we will be able to continue to grow our ambitions.”
If Google Fiber succeeds in Kansas City, those ambitions may include broadband networks in more cities.