Monday, February 15, 2010

Do Google's fibre plans include the UK?


An interesting observation from PC Pro, following George Osborne's announcement that a Conservative government would look to provision 100Mbps connections:
"Parliamentary sources have told PC Pro that the Tories' plans were based on foreign investment in the UK broadband network. Google is one of the few companies with the necessary capital and motivation to invest in British broadband. Google latest financial results reveal that 12% of the company's revenue comes from the UK...The Conservatives and Google already have close links. Last year, Tory leader David Cameron appointed Google CEO Eric Schmidt to a committee of "top talent" that would help lead Britain out of recession."
This theory has done the rounds before though, albeit in a different context. The Guardian offered this commentary on the Conservatives' links with Google in July 2009, when reporting on the Conservatives' spring conference in Cheltenham:
"... the Tory leader said that his party would have adopted a different approach to the issue of how to improve access to patient records in the internet era. "We would have said, 'Today you don't need a massive central computer to do this,'" he said. "People can store their health records securely online; they can show them to whichever doctor they want. They're in control, not the state. "And when they're in control of their own health records, they're more interested in their health, so they might start living more healthily, saving the NHS money. But, best of all in this age of austerity, a web-based version of the government's bureaucratic scheme services – like Google Health or Microsoft HealthVault – costs virtually nothing to run."
From the same article:
"The proposal has aroused controversy because of Cameron's close links to Google. Steve Hilton, his most important policy adviser, is married to Rachel Whetstone, a senior Google communications executive."
Shortly afterwards the Spectator offered this robust defence in its blog:
"...this strikes me as a nothing story. The Tories are mentioning Google so much because it is the kind of modern, successful brand that they want to be associated with...considering how Google has become shorthand for so much of the technological change going on around us, it would be rather hard for a politician to talk about how the internet can change the way public services are delivered without ever mentioning the company...it is hard to see how politicians and their advisors could avoid this kind of attack unless their partners gave up their jobs as soon as they reached a certain level of seniority - and that is clearly absurd."
From Google's own corporate information:
"Rachel Whetstone joined Google in 2005, after 15 years advising senior politicians and companies on their strategic communications. She leads the company's global teams for public policy and communications."
Anyway, wherever Google decides to build its network, it won't be cheap. This from Business Week:
"Google wants to offer 1 gigabit-per-second speeds to some 50,000 to 500,000 people. At 2.6 people per household, that roughly translates to 20,000 to 200,000 homes. Our friend Ben Schachter, Internet analyst with Broadpoint AmTech, estimates that it will cost Google between $3,000 and $8,000 per home, or roughly $60 million to $1.6 billion, depending on the final size and footprint of the network. If Google reaches, say, 100,000 homes, it would cost the company about half a billion dollars."
Watch this space I guess.

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