Here is a long list of cities vying for the Google Fiber gigabit infrastructure. Some cities have gone all out, like Topeka Google, Kansas changing its name and Columbia, Missouri sports fans holding pro-Google signs at televised sporting events.

Louisville, however, has this Iglou page and Republican candidate for mayor Jonathan Robertson has made Google Fiber a campaign issue.

Do you think Louisville is the right city for Fiber? Google says:

…we’re looking for opportunities to experiment with deployment techniques that can inform and accelerate broadband deployment elsewhere as well. To that end, we’ll use our RFI to identify interested communities and to assess local factors that will impact the efficiency and speed of our deployment, such as the level of community support, local resources, weather conditions, approved construction methods and local regulatory issues. We will also take into account broadband availability and speeds that are already offered to users within a community.

There are a lot of issues with zoning and right of way controls that the city may have to cede some power to Google for, and officials here and in other cities may not be entirely comfortable with that. Also, ISPs are probably not too keen on having a new competitor.

Here’s a post from MuniWireless on the issue:

Many of us still think (unconsciously) of Google as this scrappy little startup who needs all the help it can get to go up against the Big Guys. But it isn’t. Google has become a large, highly profitable company; it has money and an army of lobbyists to fight the cable/DSL guys.

In the end, here we are again, with a critical piece of infrastructure completely owned by one company – a private enterprise beholden only to its shareholders. Does it make you sleep more peacefully knowing that the fiber backhaul your ISP uses is owned and controlled by a company that also happens to control the search market? Sure, Google will stick it to the hated cable/DSL duopoly, but what happens when things start turning ugly for Google in its key market (search)? What happens when Google starts feeling the heat of competition? Google is already the subject of an antitrust investigation by the European Commission.

Haven’t we learned any lessons from the past? If you allow one company – a cable operator, telco, Internet search engine – to control access to communications, in the middle or last mile, it will not give up so easily and it will do everything in its power to stop competitors. It will use the political process – buying elected officials – to do its bidding.

Do you think Google, a highly profitable enterprise, will be much nicer? What controls should we be putting on companies like Google that will end up owning such an important piece of infrastructure?

Don’t get me wrong. I am very happy to see Google come in and give the incumbents the thrashing they deserve. But we have to move beyond our emotions and our tendency to view Google=good/incumbents=bad. We have to reject the mainstream media’s obsession with sensationalizing everything and turning complex matters such as this into a Grand Wrestling Match.

Google’s mantra is “Don’t Be Evil,” but Muni’s point is that private control of a utility, while not necessarily negative, has greater potential for negative repercussions than public control. The post seems optimistic that Google would act in good faith to ensure fair treatment for users and communities. Public/private partnerships may be the ultimate solution to improved internet access.  This, again, seems to boil down to the questions of whether the internet has made information a public utility, and how government and for-profit interests should be balanced to ensure the best outcome for the most people.

Your thoughts?

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