Google Fiber: The Conspiracy Theorists Were Right (commentary)

Written by Larry Press

Conspiracy theorists aren’t always wrong. Google execs indicate that Google Fiber isn’t just a test bed after all, but a viable business and future ISP. Image: T.H. Matteson’s painting, The Scarlet Letter, inspired by the eponymous book by Nathaniel Hawthorne. — Ever since the Google Fiber kicked off, there has been a ton of speculation as to what the project means to the company. Some wonder whether Google Fiber is a testbed for Google applications of the future.

Or maybe Google Fiber is a real business and signals Google’s plans to become an ISP, conspiracy theorists thought. Turns out they were more correct than anyone. Or closer, anyway.

It’s true, say Google execs, that the company originally conceived of Google Fiber as an application testbed. But when Google saw the reaction to its marketing message — that’s “connection speed 100 times faster than today’s broadband, instant downloads, crystal clear high definition TV, and endless [other] possibilities” — the project gained inside support and Google Fiber morphed into a real business.
Image: T.H. Matteson’s painting, The Scarlett Letter, wikimediacommons
Speaking at the Fiber-to-the-Home Council meeting, Milo Medin, vice president of access services for Google, told an audience of city planners, engineer, and mayors that Google Fiber is a “great business to be in” and that Google expects to make money from it.

Medin conceded that at first the firm did not see Google Fiber as a viable business. Google intended it as a testbed after all. At the time, Google was lobbying for a gigabit networking bill in Congress. Then, he said, “Someone on the management team [said] if we really think this is important, why whine to the government,when we can do it ourselves?”

Rather than worry about federal or state governments and subsidies, as the phone and cable companies must, it turns out that collaboration with local government is a strategic part of the plan.

“We thought a handful of cities would say they were interested,” said Medin, referring to initial plans to choose a location for Google Fiber. The project began with a call for proposals from cities wishing to become the first gigabit testbed. But Medin continued with: “We thought a handful of cities would say they were interested. Then we saw that (1,100) communities replied. No one at the time thought there was a real business here. But that changed when we saw the interest.”

Google wants to be my ISP. Great. Now I have a question. When does it arrive in Los Angeles? Google reps as yet were unavailable to comment on that.

Read more in this excellent article on Medin’s talk.

Based in Los Angeles, Larry Press is a founding senior editor covering tech here at He’s also a professor of information systems at California State University at Dominguez Hills. Check his Google+ profile — he’s at +Larry Press — or email him at