December 22, 2013    /    by

More bandwidth please: Why consumer trust is at stake in the battle for control of Internet's pipes

New global fiber, with faster pipes, and end-to-end deliver, owned by tech giants like Google, are a central part of the plan to deliver trust.

Google sign

Photo credit: Wikipedia

As online video quietly takes over a larger percentage of the Internet, there is a tech battle for more bandwidth that is growing hotter by the day.

But there is more at stake than video download speeds. And yes, you should care. Here’s why.

Background

Consider these headlines:

2008: Google Buys A Piece Of Transpacific Cable – “Google CEO Eric Schmidt had admitted to as much a few months back. I have written about how Google is using its infrastructure (including network) as a strategic advantage, and this latest move is an extension of that philosophy. It has been buying dark fiber to grow its network, as I had first reported back in 2005.”

2009: YouTube’s Bandwidth Bill Is Zero. Welcome to the New Net – “But a new report from Arbor Networks suggests that Google’s traffic is approaching 10 percent of the net’s traffic, and that it’s got so much fiber optic cable, it is simply trading traffic, with no payment involved, with the net’s largest ISPs.” (Google owns YouTube)

2010: Think big with a gig: Our experimental fiber network – “We'll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections.”

2011: YouTube responsible for 22% of all mobile bandwidth – “Every fourth bit transferred over mobile data networks worldwide is part of a YouTube video.” [This is more about the need.]

2012: Meet Google Fiber, the New Lightning-Fast Internet Network – “Google on Thursday detailed its high-speed Internet network called Google Fiber, which runs 100 times faster than today's average broadband connection.”

2013: Google Fiber brings AT&T, CenturyLink to the FTTH table – “Google Fiber may be a new broadband player, but its presence has driven two of the largest telcos AT&T and CenturyLink to serve up their own 1 Gbps fiber to the home (FTTH) service.”

No, Google is no longer your father’s search engine company from the 1990s.

Google is developing everything from smart glasses to smart cars to the smart grid. It seems that almost no traditional tech boundary will stop Google, or other high-tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, from trying to climb these new virtual mountains.

The need for speed

But why is it so important to have new fiber and higher Internet speeds? The Washington Post ran this blog earlier this year, which explained why future Internet requirements go way beyond faster movies, more music and better virtual games.

“It’s not hard to see why cities would be so eager to eat gigabit fiber. Doing so could very well usher in a brave new world for content creators, advertisers, health-care practitioners, engineers and entrepreneurs.”

From health-care to education to entertainment, CNN expounded on five reasons that Google is offering new high-speed connections to homes in Austin, Texas.

And communities such as Springfield, Ohio, have even recognized that improved fiber networks can boost jobs.

But looking broader and longer-term, there are other compelling reasons that tech firms want to build and control new web pipes. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently outlined the hot battle:

“…Google has spent years piecing together a network of private fiber-optic cables and now controls more than 100,000 miles of routes around the world, said one person familiar with its assets. That is bigger than the size of the continental U.S. network run by Sprint Corp., which covers less than 40,000 miles.

Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp., meanwhile, are also heavily investing in their network infrastructure to accommodate growth in their cloud-computing businesses…”

Future online success is all about trust

But perhaps the greatest reason for Google and others to build new frontline and backend infrastructure is new the 21st century currency that will drive ecommerce and build lasting relationships with tech partners over the next two decades. That currency is trust – and tech leaders and the government are currently facing a common problem – fading public trust.

“For months, leading technology companies have been buffeted by revelations about government spying on their customers’ data, which they believe are undermining confidence in their services. The Obama administration has been blasted for the botched rollout of the health site, which prevented many people from signing up for health insurance in the first weeks of the site’s introduction, but seem to have been largely repaired since then….

Both sides are saying, ‘My biggest issue right now is trust,’ ” said Matthew Prince, co-founder and chief executive of CloudFlare, an Internet start-up. “If you’re on the White House side, the issue is they’re getting beaten up because they’re seen as technically incompetent. On the other side, the tech industry needs the White House right now to give a stern rebuke to the NSA and put in real procedures to rein in a program that feels like it’s out of control.”

No doubt, the tech battles over Internet search and traditional online services will continue. But NSA headlines about seeing more user data don’t help build more trust. The regularly reported data breaches at major banks don’t help either.

There is also a fine line between liberty and security, and recent polls show that  Americans are uneasy about too much surveillance.

“Remarkable advances in information technology have enabled counterterrorism tactics far more sweeping and intrusive — and powerful — than the United States had ever deployed. At the same time, the relationship between consumers and businesses was elementally altered as mobile phones, GPS, Google and Facebook gave corporations a new capacity to track their customers’ behavior.”

While the reputation and branding issues are complicated, at the core, both the government and tech companies such as Google and Microsoft need consumers to believe that they are acting in their best interest with their data. They even want to protect your precious data from others, where possible.

In fact, their future plans require that they collect much more data than is currently collected today.

Wrap-up

So the future of e-commerce is only a part of the push for more Internet bandwidth. Google and their competitors realize that all of these new technologies and data sharing will need to work together seamlessly to enable the new experiences that they are hoping to create.

Our virtual and physical worlds are merging together as never before. This new e-world will require citizens to trust their technology supplier’s infrastructure while understanding how their privacy will be protected – possibly even from the government tapping into their pipes.

Yes, relying on multi-vendor relationships will often still be needed to deliver end-to-end trust, but Google and others would like to control as many pieces of the infrastructure pie as possible to deliver their vision. If a global company owns the backbone pipes between datacenters as well as the fiber or wireless connectivity to end users, they should be able to provide better data security, more access control and more reuse of data across multiple products. Providers will be able to offer a more complete service, faster, with lower risk and more innovation.

For example, think about UPS building their own end-to-end processes and procedures for logistics, from planes to trucks and from pick-up to delivery. Note that this infrastructure was built separate from our US Postal Service.

And now, Amazon is talking about drones to deliver packages to our door. Whether you believe they can pull that off or not, do you see the trend?

Bottom line, despite recent problems, Google, Facebook, Amazon and their competition want to get to know us even better. They want to learn what we value in every area of life in order to deliver a more holistic experience with all of their products. This means building more trust in products and services – and infrastructure. Microsoft even has a website highlighting end-to-end trust  activities.

And new global fiber, with faster pipes, and end-to-end deliver, owned by tech giants like Google, are a central part of the plan to deliver that trust.