Money Matters - Simplified

Google Can't Afford a Beta Phase This Time


Nine months ago, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) made a very big deal out of its experimental high-speed fiber project. It was announced, roundly discussed, and even made fun of from the inside and the outside on April Fool's Day. The lucky test site for the first 500,000 installations was to be chosen by the end of the year.


And then life happened.

Google and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) teamed up to define a network neutrality agenda, for which Big G caught a lot of flak about its concessions to service-provider demands. Meanwhile, AT&T (NYSE: T) took a step backward in the journey toward unlimited bandwidth by introducing capped and fee-heavy mobile broadband plans. Think that was enough? Nope; Level 3 Communications (Nasdaq: LVLT) and Comcast(Nasdaq: CMCSA) recently faced off in the public arena over uneven traffic flows, unfair fees, principles of network neutrality, and/or how Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) is hogging online bandwidth -- depending on whom you ask.

If Google didn't already have its hands full with investigating 1,100 applications for the fiber project, all of these events have added to the pressure on Google to get this one right. It's not good enough to pick some burg on a whim, on nepotistic grounds, or based on who bakes the best gingerbread houses, and then figure out later what to do with the whole mess. Google had better be ready to reach significant business conclusions from this test very early. The company has become a caped crusader for free-flowing bandwidth, but the public also thinks the company has a dark side. And if there's one thing Google can't afford, it's public derision.

Thus, the selection process has slipped into next year. "We’re sorry for this delay," says project leader Milo Medin, "but we want to make sure we get this right." No kidding. All eyes will be on Mountain View when Big G finally makes the announcement, and about 99.9% of the country will hate it.

Are you hoping for a deeply satisfying gulp of gigabit bandwidth, courtesy of Google? Did you forget all about the fiber project already? Either way, the comments box below is your shoulder to cry on.

© 2010 UCLICK L.L.C.