Google to become broadband operator to test the great net neutrality debate

Google announced this week that it is planning to test fiber-based ultra-high speed broadband networks capable of transmitting data at 1Gbps in one or more trial locations across the country. It wants to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people. It has called on interested municipalities to respond with information through an RFI, which the search giant will use to determine where it wants to build the network.

While Google's goals are several fold, I believe its primary goal is to showcase what an open access network looks like. On the company's blog, Google said it will include new deployment techniques to offer this open access capability. Google has always been the major champion of open access in both the wireless and wired world and has long prodded the FCC, to no avail, for a testbed fiber network as part of the FCC's broadband initiative.

No really true open access network--at least how Google envisions it--exists today. Clearwire is close, but WiMAX is still considered nascent and has yet to attract a number of consumer electronics and networking products coming in from the outside. However, the company is aggressively searching out wholesale providers.

What sort of incentives will be needed to entice ISPs to buy space on the network? How easy will it be for third parties to connect? Those are just a few questions I'm sure Google wants to answer. Open access always sounds good on paper but there will be actual logistics involved to facilitate it. Plus, Google most likely wants to have the data and experience at hand to counter the many arguments service providers have against net neutrality, which the FCC is mulling over now.--Lynnette