Big Fat Pipes: Google's Underappreciated Tech Edge

By James Fallows

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.)

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/08/big-fat-pipes-googles-underappreciated-tech-edge/260624/