Austin. Boston. New York. Silicon Valley. Four major U.S. tech hubs, yet Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL)(NASDAQ:GOOG) Fiber is available in just one of them. Isn't that a mistake? No, but you have to dig through some surprising data to understand why.
These "have-nots" have too much
At first blush, Google's Kansas City deployment looks like an exercise in showing off. Residents who barely need broadband are getting 1 gigabit per second synchronous upload and download, enough to stream a movie, download apps, and enjoy a multiplayer online game without suffering an interruption. KC is awash in bandwidth it can't use.
Fortunately, efforts to consume the excess are under way. According to Newsmax, the Kansas City Public Library is working on allowing patrons to access expensive video-editing software on demand. Other ideas include real-time video monitoring of high-crime areas and plug-ins to home appliances, realizing the promise of the Internet of Things.
But even these efforts would fall short of Google's hopes to create an entirely new ecosystem of software-driven services that wouldn't be possible in a low-bandwidth environment, and then delivering them on a mass scale. The good news? There's a plan to address that.
Reaching software developers where they live
Google Fiber is heading to cities that are home to growing populations of software developers. Nashville and Raleigh-Durham are good examples.
Late last year, Forbes asked Praxis Strategy Group to look at more than a decade of job growth data. The findings show surging growth in STEM (i.e., science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) jobs. Raleigh-Durham is up 24.6%. Nashville is up 65.8%. In deploying fiber to these cities, Google is hoping to entice more breakthroughs in Web app design.
And more help is on the way. AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) are expanding their own fiber deployments in regions just like these. Granted, they have different motives for moving in -- signing new clients, for one thing -- but the result is the same. Giving coders access to "wire speed" fiber networks should make the job of writing and testing new software go that much faster.
Playing the long game
Of course, there's more to this rollout than an incremental productivity boost. Google is adding fiber to communities of developers for the same reason that it's adding Android apps to Chromebooks. The search star needs to make the web experience richer.
"We need to encourage developers who have great ideas, but we also need to build a critical mass of people who can use those applications," Google Fiber General Manager Kevin Lo told Newsmax. "You need both for the breakthroughs to happen."
For Google, it's a virtuous cycle. Richer apps and websites are more likely to engage users, who, in turn, produce data that feeds Google's understanding of the digital world. Those newfound smarts then make their way into products, services, and advertising options. Engaging developers where they live is key to the long-term growth of the company.
What's more, there's a downside to failing to engage. Developers have only so much time to write code and history shows that profitable platforms get top priority. Easy-to-use systems aren't far behind, especially the ones that allow for fast development and deployment. Google Fiber is helping to bring these attributes to web development.
We're not yet at a point where Google Fiber is a catalyst for the search giant. That could change as the service puts more bandwidth into the hands of coders with the art and skill to make use of them. Over the long haul, that's good for investors.
Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Apple and Google (A and C class) at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+, Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.
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