That’s what GigaOm’s Stacey Higgenbotham said going into the long weekend. The whole point of Google’s dalliance in FTTH has been to test out and prove both the technology and the business model. If what Google has learned from the process thus far is that opening its infrastructure to other ISPs and such won’t work, then it will surely disappoint more than a few people.
After all, what’s Google’s Kansas City 1Gbps fiber project if Google is the only one selling service over the last mile? It’s just another last mile gatekeeper, albeit one that probably won’t complain as overtly about bandwidth hogs and freeloading OTT providers. But why go through all this just to become a business model they were trying to disrupt?
Gary Kim suggests that perhaps Google just feels it will learn more if it ‘takes a more direct and active role in sponsoring’ the new applications that its project will enable. But honestly, couldn’t Google do the same thing with a retail offering alongside a wholesale offering?
Of course, the economics are what they are, and while fiber-to-the-business is starting to boom, fiber-to-the-home is still a challenge no matter how you look at it. Google may simply be bowing to the financial realities its ‘test bed’ has yielded. But we didn’t think Google really cared about making real money off this project, did we? It seemed more about proving what was possible to a disbelieving industry, i.e. a call to arms that would lead to a sweeping away of the barriers to universal FTTH.
Could it be that they did care about making real money off of this, and that they still do? That they really are considering becoming a last mile fiber operator on a large scale? Because that’s one way to make sense of a drift in their position away from open access. I’ve never put much stock in the idea before, but if Google continues down this path I’ll have to reconsider.
Or maybe eschewing the open access route for now would just make it easier to find an exit later on, by selling out or merging it with a combined Consolidated/Suddenlink or even Sonic.net for example. They can always open up the wholesale route later anyway, after playing hard to get for a few quarters while they get everything in place. Hmmm, I’m going to go with that one for now.