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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Google\'s Coolest Project? Broadband

According to Eric Schmidt, Google‘s executive chairman, the most interesting project going on at the search giant is its high-speed broadband trials in Kansas City. (Missouri and Kansas versions)

The business, called Google Fiber, promises speeds 100 times faster than conventional high-speed Internet services. Mr. Schmidt, who was speaking at a New York Times Dealbook conference in New York, said Google was delivering 760 megabits per second to the customer, and taking 720 megabits a second from customers.

“All of the distinctions, like HD, DVD, that we grew up with, go away,” he said. “You really imagine that your computer is really in a data cen ter.”

Google is considering introducing  the service to other select cities, Mr. Schmidt said, but would not specify which towns would get the fiber.

Google is likely not interested in being a service provider, like Verizon, but rather in fostering a competitive climate in which ultrafast broadband becomes the norm. “Teleconferences will become holographic,” he predicted. “People take advantage of this kind of increase.”

The more people are on the Internet, Google has found, the more they search for things, which is good for Google's core ad business. In addition, Google can tailor other services to people, like its videoconferencing Hangouts service, which it sells to corporations. Watching consumers use more Google products also makes Google's ads mo re profitable, because the company can personalize the pitches better.

Even away from that, Google Fiber has changed the landscape of cities where it is employed, Mr. Schmidt said. “There are all sorts of bizarre things. We started wiring one neighborhood, and a whole bunch of start-ups bought houses in the neighborhood so they could get faster bandwidth,” he said. He added, “good for real estate values, I'm not sure that's sustainable real estate strategy.”

Aside from Fiber, Mr. Schmidt said, “the most startling personally is the self-driving car,” Mr. Schmidt said. It takes 20 minutes to recover from the shock of being driven by a large computer, he said. The state of California recently legalized self-driving cars, but there is not yet a commercial market for the vehicles.