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Feb 23, 2010


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Jim Caserta

I believe Google could pay the right-of-way charge and still make a profit. That issue is not specific to Greensboro, but it would be unfortunate if Google held that over cities and held out until a city blinked.

I had heard AT&T was priming W-S for its U-verse fiber offering:

The cost issue for laying any network can be density related, but the difficulty in wiring can also be an issue. Consider a large apartment/condo building - will it be much easier to route fiber from the curb to each unit versus digging a trench to lay the fiber to a single-family home? Cable companies have the same issue. I am not sure that coax cable is that much cheaper to lay in terms of labor costs or that CATV networks in less dense areas were that much more expensive to lay than a fiber network would be to lay today.

Consider the ROI. When was old-GSO wired for CATV - I mean existing homes that had drops installed, similar to installing fiber in existing 'hoods? 40 years ago? How much was the average cable bill then? $25? Google is aiming for triple play, high-speed internet, CATV, phone, more in the $100-200 range. That would justify a 4-8X difference in capex/home. Fiber is more expensive, but I don't think it is that much more expensive.

They will not be shooting for the highest margin they can make. I bet their plan is to wire to nearly everyone, so they would want a test case that is mid-range, although Verizon's FiOS rollout has been focused on denser areas. Would Google run its own fiber in those existing FiOS areas? That seems wasteful. Could google run its service on Verizon laid fiber? Will Verizon look to match google's eventual service - IPTV, higher bandwidths (most really wouldn't notice the difference between 100MBps and 1GBPs unless they were streaming a lot of video)?

With interest rates & the investment environment what they are, Google could finance this with bonds. They could get a great rate, and I wonder if borrowing costs through debt would be better than through equity.

Jim Caserta

The slate author's mentioning tech hubs ignores Verizon's massive investment there. SF, Boston, NY, Austin, DC, I believe they all already have FiOS. Google would be offering virtually the same service, so would capture a much smaller share of the market than if they hit a non FiOS market.
Also, when I say a city with 50k - 500k residents, are those the cities you think of? GSO (and W-S) seem in the sweet spot for Google's intentions.


The project's web presence? Didn't you link to part of it above? As for the rest, Action Greensboro has proposed hiring a PR firm to handle "social media" for the endeavor. I'm not sure of the benefits of that approach, especially as it relates to transparency and inclusiveness, but we'll see and I'm told everything is up for discussion tomorrow.

Ed Cone

There's a community-generated FB page.

Is there a City project blog, Twitter feed, etc?

"Action Greensboro has proposed hiring a PR firm to handle 'social media' for the endeavor."

Now that I'm done puking at the idea of Action Greensboro hiring a PR firm to do this, how do you know this, and why doesn't everyone else?


Yeah. Perkins' comments struck me as really premature. Even if you think this might lead to the incentives game, you don't tip your hand like you are freakin' Mayberry RFD all a buzz cause the movie crew is coming to town (even if we are).

Regarding Hammer's concerns: He creates a bit of a straw man in that nobody is discussing waiving the right-of-way fee except him so that he can turn around and point out how troublesome it would be to do what nobody is talking about doing. Sheesh!

Regardless, at $1.75 per linear foot, I don't imagine it's an unreasonable cost -- other utilities are apparently paying it. There is also the matter of the State having taken over the franchising of cable systems, a definition vague enough that it might put the Google endeavor franchising agreement out of the hands of the city. Or not. Smarter people are hopefully figuring that one out.


"Now that I'm done puking at the idea of Action Greensboro hiring a PR firm to do this, how do you know this, and why doesn't everyone else?" -- Ed

Well, that's a great and fair question since my knowledge of it has come from the same concern--that the process not coalesce behind closed doors. So I've been reaching out for updates and getting them from Assistant City Manager Denise Turner and City Council Representative Danny Thompson who I really do think genuinely want to keep the process open while moving it forwards at the same time.

My understanding it that they met with Action Greensboro and the PR firm (RLF Communications) yesterday at Action Greensboro's request. The idea of a centralized, PR driven "social media" effort seems a little off base to me too, Ed, but inclusive is inclusive and it was prudent for the City to meet with AG to hear what they have in mind, even if the transparency was late in coming. I was going to blog about it, but was a little perturbed by the idea yesterday and wanted to wait until I had a chance to think about it a little bit.

Now that I have, I would feel more confident in a group and agency that want to guide a social media effort if they had some bone fides in the local blogosphere; and the idea of centralize social media initiative seems to betray a little lack of understanding. Still, that's just my opinion. AG and RLF may build some super kind of aggregator/launch pad that is truly inclusive -- or someone else might; or nobody might and we end up with a thousand points of light that we still find a way to bring to Google's attention.

There's plenty of online lifting that can be done. There is the one-to-man getting the word out that the City and a PR agency may want to do to solicit community involvement and there is the many-to-one that Google wants the community to deliver to it, the expression of the community support -- those are not going to be achieved to their highest degree by any one person or entity.

Jim Caserta

Are municipalities footing the bill for other fiber roll-outs? This project is necessarily different than the Lenoir facility. I do not expect this to be a one-time project. Google should be able to build a profitable network provider business quickly and would expand the offering. In 10 years, I would see this network, whether Google keeps it, spins it off, or sells it, servicing > 25M people. Imagine an IPO for that some number of years from now, as opposed to today.

$1B is a relatively small investment for them, and it is in something that would very valuable to another company. Say Google builds it, but it doesn't work out for them. Either AT&T, Time-Warner or another 3rd party (Verizon, other network operator) would buy the lines. Who else would use their facility in Lenoir if they left it? Any buyers lined up for the Dell plant?

Either way, other cities are pining for the goo-too:
Palo Alto
Lots of others, too much work to link.

There are over 200 cities with populations between 100k and 500k. Everyone sees why their city is perfect, but the odds are against this project coming here. Hopefully Google's salvo gets other telcos to lay fiber faster.


The odds are against it going to any given other city too. Gotta look at the bright side.

Ed Cone

Not the most informative website, but RLF does claim expertise in online and social media campaign.

Jim Caserta

I think one thing GSO has going for it is no current plan for fiber from another telco, afaik. I think Google will base its decision on things outside of any PR firm's control: density, existing higher BW fiber backbone connection - so the new network doesn't get bogged down, expected subscriber percentage, institutional use (possibly less as institutions can have their own internal networks that are very fast).

200 locales spend half a mil each, $100M is a lot to be collectively spent to try to influence this decision. That money will mostly be towards sub-optimal locales - consider there is one optimum city for this, all the rest are trying to tilt the decision away from its optimum.

The bright side is fiber will get here, either by google or someone else.


I'm not sure what difference it may make, but Google doesn't say specifically that they are looking for a "city." They say that they are looking to serve 50,000 to 500,000 customers. If a city would let them, that might be a downtown or a side of town or it could be a collection of smaller scattered places. It seems as if it would be beneficial to find a single city, but they appear to be leaving their options open.

I think Greensboro's biggest asset may be that we are average in a lot of ways; that we are not an outlier. Prove the concept here and you've proved it in the fat part of the curve.

Ryan Shell

I think AG might be working on a site that the City could use as the hub - the FB group would be an extension.

I'll be at the meeting tomorrow and look forward to sharing a little idea that came to mind. Hope you'll take the time to attend Ed.


Ed Cone

Not an ideal time for me, but I will try to be there.

Jim Caserta

If that is GSO's biggest asset, it is something Google already knows. Anything that is public record or googlable is already known by Google. I wonder the extent to which the decision is already made and they are generating buzz. Or they have 5 or 10 finalists in mind and are seeing which one pushes hardest.

Economies of scale would say that if you're going to start running fiber to half, or a quarter a city, you might as well run it to everyone. Also, as Ed pointed out, a very sparse area will be more expensive to 'wire' up.

Whatever is done, people should really consider Google's long term plans for this project. I think it is much more expansive than is currently being discussed - that makes the possibility of being the site chosen more exciting.


Google's ultimate goal is not to be the ISP of choice everywhere. They're ultimately looking for selected markets that will be more profitable for them to be a major ISP player.

If Greensboro is not chosed for this trial, chances are pretty good we will never see the final product in action.

Jim Caserta

Google is not the only provider of fiber. There are hints AT&T might bring fiber to W-S, which would lead to the possibility of it coming to GSO also. The argument "looking for selected markets that will be more profitable" applied to CATV networks also. Most of those markets are already being built out by Verizon - FiOS's new offerings will be able to be ramped up to very high data rates fairly easily (old BPON vs new GPON, will need some hardware upgrade).

Google has been buying backhaul fiber for 3+ years. Speculation along the lines of what I'm doing is not new From 2005!:

"Google is looking for Strategic Negotiator candidates with experience in...(i)dentification, selection, and negotiation of dark fiber contracts both in metropolitan areas and over long distances as part of development of a global backbone network,"

Google is not a think-small kind of company. What could be their strategy is to build a network, as proof of concept. A fat part of the curve town like GSO is perfect for that. Show that network to be profitable. Then sell the metro-networks they've built + their many miles of backhaul fiber to a telco with a use agreement for the backhaul part. It might not be google bringing fiber to everyone's home, but someone will.


Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the fiber optic services of Verizon and AT&T do not run fiber all the way to the home, as Google is planning on doing. I think that differentiates Google's initiative from the others -- as I've come to understand it.

Jim Caserta

loose quote - VZN is the first carrier to run fiber-to-the-home (FTTH).

They/Verizon are not offering GBps internet...yet, but GPON hardware wired homes could be upgraded probably w/o a service tech coming out. Older BPON could still deliver > 100MBps, and most users would not be able to tell the difference, and they may not even have the hardware in their computers to accomodate GBps.

A local phone line is >90% gross profit. Verizon saw that disappearing with people going to phone-cableTV-internet offerings from Comcast & T-W. Fiber is a better way to deliver that triple-play, but they have the cost of deployment. Invest now or have your business disappear should be an easy decision to make.


Thanks for the info, Jim.

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