Google and IBM want to make the internet a LOT faster, but will consumers ever get the upgrades?

server rack rear cablingWithin a day of each other, complimentary stories about Google and IBM hit the net.

Google is working on plans to improve their fiber offerings from 1Gbps to 10Gbps, meaning their uploads and downloads would be 200 and 2000 times faster than what I currently have access to in Los Angeles. We can also easily estimate that the service would be cheaper than the top tier broadband in So-Cal. Originally their plan was to roll out 10Gbps connections over the next decade, but in light of 4K video services popping up to supply people native resolution content for their new TV’s, they’ve shortened that window to three years. The internet is going to need bigger pipes to handle future services.

And if you think Google’s data sounds audacious, IBM has even bigger goals in their sites. Announced yesterday, scientists at IBM have made a breakthrough which they say will enable 200-400Gbps data transfers. Best of all their new tech is extremely low power, so implementation in data centers wouldn’t be prohibitively expensive to maintain. While this would be targeted at scientific research centers, government, and military applications first, it’s not hard to see where consumer would benefit quickly from data centers, cloud solutions, and eventually even locally networked gear taking advantage of these kinds of hardware improvements.

Of course, that’s if we ever get to see them implemented. On Google’s side, there are only three areas where Google will manage fiber networks. Kansas City is up and running, we’re waiting out news of Austin and Provo. The bummer for residents in Kansas and Utah,  both local governments are introducing legislation which would prevent the expanded roll out of fiber networks to the rest of the state. We can only guess what current industry partners had hand in authoring that legislation (spoiler: the established cable industry).  It’s somewhat unlikely in this current climate, in the near term, that we’ll see Google tackle a fast roll out across the country.

Which leaves IBM, and the optimists might point to their breakthrough making its way into our current network infrastructures, our current internet providers taking it upon themselves to upgrade our connections. I hate playing the cynic, but in light of the Comcast+Time Warner merger announcement, and Verizon’s stalled Fios roll out, expecting a market with almost zero competition to suddenly start improving their offerings seems doubtful at best. There’s an opportunity for a company like AT&T or smaller providers like Charter to start acting like market disrupters, but they’d be working against market trends. In a business which sees more than 90% profit, David Cohen, a Comcast Executive, had this to say about customers bills following the Time Warner Merger:

“The impact on customer bills is always hard to quantify,” Cohen said. “We’re certainly not promising that customer bills are going to go down or even increase less rapidly.”

Yeah. When it comes to getting better service, I won’t be holding my breath…