Google announced yesterday on their blog that they are venturing into installing fiber-to-the-curb for residential users, essentially as an alternative ISP. Their goals include not only delivering faster Internet to more people, but also giving developers and users a wealth of bandwidth at their disposal and see what they can do with it.
Lawrence, Kansas is a quintessential college town and home to the University of Kansas, with total population of about 90,000 most of the year, and about 70,000 when the University is not in session. Lawrence is relatively small geographically, covering only about 28 square miles, and is home to a talented technology and development community. Now the interesting parts.
Lawrence's local cable provider, Sunflower Broadband, holds a bit of a monopoly on cable service in the area, leaving many residents wishing for more options for Internet access other than Sunflower or AT&T DSL/U-verse. Sunflower is also one of the few cable companies in the nation that use bandwidth transfer limits on most of their tiered accounts.
I subscribe to the middle tier account at 7Mbps. Within the last few months, Sunflower upped the bandwidth cap from 15GB to just 25GB. While additional bandwidth is available for purchase, if you transfer over your limit, you are charged per-GB. Google's presumably unmetered-bandwidth fiber network would give residents yet another legitimate high-speed internet option and provide Lawrence's talented development community bandwidth to play with.
The University of Kansas in Lawrence is also already connected to fiber optic lines that run along Interstate 70, through Kansas City out to Manhattan, KS. While I don't know the politics involved, Google could leverage existing infrastructure and run their own lines parallel to existing lines, making the process of installing new lines more cost efficient.
Being home to a leading research institution in the University of Kansas, Lawrence is also home to many well-connected technology advocates and Internet technology pioneers. The Lawrence development community is very active and produces original high-quality software used by people across the world. A successful launch in Lawrence would generate a large buzz in the technology and social media niche, generating word-of-mouth feedback.
The US Department of Energy recently provided a grant to local power company, Westar Energy, providing the electric company funds to install "smart energy grid" meters in the majority of Lawrence homes. These new meters will allow customers to monitor their energy usage online. If Google were to lay fiber-to-the-curb for home use, they could possibly negotiate a business opportunity with Westar Energy as the data-communications partner for this grant project, perhaps elevating some of the implementation costs.
As outlined above, Lawrence is small enough, yet large enough to sustain such a project. Fiber-to-the-curb would be a welcomed option for another Internet provider to alleviate bandwidth caps, and would likely be used by many in the Lawrence tech community to build next-generation hardware and software. Existing infrastructure would lower the barrier for implementation, while strong influence in the national technology community would bring much feedback from Lawrence's progressive technology community.
Thank you for reading,
Lawrence, Kansas resident