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Google: Less regulation = faster net

September 27, 2011

Nick Snow @ Broadband World Forum

Although governments are keen to reap the benefits of high-speed Internet access, they need to reform regulations to help those building networks to provide it, according to a senior Google executive.

Delivering a keynote address at the Broadband World Forum in Paris, Kevin Lo, Google’s general manager of access, told delegates: “Regulation can get in the way of innovation. Regulations tied to physical infrastructure sometimes defer the investment altogether.”

Suggesting that the company’s ambitions are being held back by broadband access that is either too slow or missing altogether, Lo said Google was about “moving the Web forward. We have product managers who are very frustrated. They have apps that don’t work because they don’t have the speeds.”

Lo highlighted three areas for reform: ease access to public rights-of-way where fibre-optic cables could be laid; ease access to utility poles; and enable special service districts to free sections of municipalities from zoning restrictions.

Lo’s responsibilities include overseeing the ‘Google Fiber’ project which aims to bring extremely fast Internet access to Kansas City in Missouri and Kansas, and he described Kansas City’s “very pro-business” attitude as key to its selection for the project. “They demonstrated they could work at Google speeds,” he said.

Google has started building the free high-speed network, which promises speeds of 1 gigabit per second for both download and upload speeds using fibre-optic lines to the home. “We believe the uplink capacity is the real game-changer here,” Lo declared. “We’re going to light up our customers in the first half of next year.”

Lo was unwilling to share details with delegates on how much it costs to bring service to each household or on how fast it expects a return on its investment, but admitted that the project would make Google money one way or another and that the company could afford to make expensive investments in infrastructure.

“This is a business for us. We expect to make money. We don’t expect to lose money,” he said. “Google is not a cash-starved entity. This thing has to make economic sense, and it does.”

With the need for 1 gigabit per second to the home being questioned, Lo accepted that “we have no idea why you need a gigabit today. When we all had dialup connections fifteen years ago, you could not have imagined watching video like you do today. It’s not about doing e-mail faster, it’s about doing those new things that you don’t do today,” he asserted.

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