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Add More Google Fiber To Your Diet?

I was at a conference where a vendor challenged us to a scavenger hunt where we had to barter, cajole, and stalk certain people to collect items for a prize. You could win a trip to Vegas, a backpack, or a Monopoly game. I didn’t care for the Vegas trip since chances were slim. I already owned 8 backpacks and I don’t play Monopoly.

Yet I diligently searched for items, sometimes sacrificing dignity to complete my entry (dignity is overrated, anyways). I finally found them all, waited patiently for my Monopoly, then tossed it in my closet where it has been ever since.

Funny how something “free” can lead us to behave in funny ways.

This month we’ve seen some strange behavior in an effort to catch Google’s attention. On February 10, Google announced an experiment to build fiber cables with speeds up to 1 gigabit per second, roughly 100 times faster than what we get today.

What kind of gimmicks have some cities tried? Topeka, KS changed its name to Google, KS for a month. Then the mayor of Duluth, MN jumped into frigid Lake Superior and offered to rename first-born Duluthians to Google Fiber. Then the mayor of Sarasota, FL swam with sharks and changed the city’s name to Google Island (remember, dignity is overrated).

But will super fiber really change your life? Surely, if the mayor is willing to swim with sharks this must be revolutionary stuff…  but I’m not so sure.

First, only 50,000 to 500,000 people will get it. That’s nothing. If you’re a big city how do you decide who gets it? Good luck to the policy makers tasked with that decision. Or what if this goes to mid-sized cities like Topeka where fiber could power the entire city to gigabit heaven? If so, who wants to build the revolutionary applications to harness such power if it’s not even available in areas with millions of potential users?

Second, are people really going to increase their internet consumption just because their throughput has exploded a hundredfold? Broadband is already available in 93% of US homes, and only a small minority use an exorbitant amount.

Just because you suddenly have 100 times more bandwidth doesn’t mean you’re going to use more. I get 500 minutes for my cell phone but use 200 a month. If you gave me 5,000 minutes, I’d still talk 200. I average 30 mph on my commute. If you changed my humble sedan to a Ferrari, I’m still going to drive 30 mph. I eat 2 breakfast tacos a week. If you gave me 500 tacos, I might increase my consumption by 3 tacos, max.

My point is…despite all this hoopla, I don’t think this is going to change the behavior of how we as a society use the Internet. The individuals that will leverage this capability is too small to register a blip on Google’s nerdar.

But waiting for the next big gimmick is exciting. Maybe the mayor of Corvallis, OR can jump into a tank of hungry piranhas in a rainbow jumpsuit while talking on a Nexus One and telling his friends on Google Buzz about the evils of censoring search results in other countries.

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