Big Fat Pipes: Google's Underappreciated Tech Edge

Thumbnail image for Fiber-optic.jpgIt is worth reading this recent posting by Christopher Mitchell, on the Community Broadband Networks site, for an angle of the Google-vs.-all-comers battle not usually featured in the mainstream press. That angle is Google's significantly cheaper cost structure for data-movement of all kinds, and the commercial and technological possibilities this opens for the company.

To return to one of my hobby horses: this is the corporate version of the advantage that countries or regions have when their transport / communication / utilities infrastructure is better than someplace else's. You don't have to know exactly what your roads -- railroads, airports, seaports, data lines -- will be used for. It doesn't matter: almost anything that people choose to do will be faster, cheaper, more responsive if it operates in this more favorable environment. The unfortunate corollary -- unfortunate for the modern United States -- it that almost anything that people try to do with decaying infrastructure will be slower, more expensive, and worse.

I am not equipped to judge whether the assertions and judgments in the article are accurate. For instance, this:

Milo Medin -- the head of the Google Fiber project -- is fond of saying, "No one moves bits cheaper than Google." Google has built an incredible worldwide fiber optic network.

But assuming this is right, it suggests an aspect of the clash-of-Internet-titans that deserves more attention than it usually gets. (Fiber optic cable image from here. Routine disclosure: Many of my friends, plus one of my immediate family members, work for Google.)

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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