2010 Year in Review: Google's Fiber to the Home dream

The News: Buoyed by the ongoing broadband stimulus program and the FCC's chairman Julius Genachowski's "100 Squared Initiative" and its national broadband plan, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) decided that it needed to make a statement that it too could be a broadband enabler too.

Fishing fiberIn February, the Internet giant decided to launch a Fiber to the Home (FTTH) trial that it claims would deliver 1 Gbps to between 50,000 to 500,000 users.

Not wanting to be a last mile provider itself, the Google FTTH experiment would be an open access network similar to Utah's Utopia that would invite various broadband data and voice providers to provide services to consumers over the network.

The idea or experiment, as described by Google product manager James Kelly in a blog when it announced the trial, was that the company wants to "try out new ways to build and operate fiber networks and share what we learn with the world."

Despite all of the initial hype over Google's FTTH experiment, the company has yet to name which community will be the first to trial the network. In fact, this week Google said that it has to sort through the glut of responses it received so it won't be making a decision until sometime in Q1 2011.   

That's not to say that Google isn't making progress with its FTTH driver, however. Just this month, it announced that it has chosen competitive provider Sonic.net to build and run its separate Stanford University pilot FTTH network.

Interestingly, Sonic.net itself could apply the experience it gains from running Google's pilot network to apply to its own FTTH drive that's it is currently investigating to compete against the likes of cable and of course Verizon (NYSE: VZ) FiOS.

What's significant about it?: While the program is mainly about gathering information on how to deploy community-based FTTH networks, the information it gathers could be helpful to other communities and regulators trying to understand how to gague broadband demand. But at this point the value it will bring won't be seen until a community actually gets up and running. Until then, Google's FTTH experiment is still a dream.

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