Cable companies have long dismissed gigabit Internet speeds as a luxury that most consumers don’t really want but venture capitalist Hunter Walk thinks that consumer expectations for broadband service will change once they experience Google’s high-speed Google Fiber service for themselves. Walk, a former Google executive who left the company earlier this year to start his own VC firm, recently travelled to Kansas City to experience Google Fiber first hand and came away very impressed.
While Walk acknowledges that there aren’t a “whole bunch of specialized web products built around having 1GB speed” at this time, he does say that service was so fast that “the gap between you and Internet totally disappears” when you use it. What this means from a practical perspective, Walk says, is that “you can play multiple 4K YouTube videos without buffering,” you can “download 1GB files during a tv commercial break” and you can “just get more done.”
Walk says that Google’s long game with Fiber isn’t so much to put ISPs such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable out of business but to reset consumer expectations for what a home broadband connection should deliver at a given price point. If users’ overall Internet speeds quickly accelerate then it will benefit Google since consumers will be able to use Google’s online services even more than they do today.
“If existing ISPs follow — or even beat Google in many markets — Google still wins,” Walk writes. “Why? Because as I found out personally, when the Internet is this fast you do one more search per session, watch one more video per session, send one more email per session. A connected population benefits Google. Period.”
After initially setting up shop in Kansas City last year, Google has become more aggressive in pushing its Fiber services out to more markets in the last month and has announced planned expansions in both Austin, Tex. and Provo, Utah. The company says that it sees Google Fiber as “a real business” rather than just an “experiment,” although it hasn’t yet laid out a comprehensive roadmap for where it will bring the service next.