It may come as a bit of a surprise, but the U.S. is severely lacking when it comes to Internet connection speeds. As it stands, U.S. Internet users are able to download an average of 10 megabits per second, which ranks 14th globally. Is there really a need for a faster Internet? Maybe not today, but with the growing popularity of streaming online movies and TV shows, and the advent of virtual reality gaming, a faster Internet is going to become at least a nicety, if not a necessity.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has an answer to our relatively slow connectivity: Fiber. With speeds up to 100 times faster than the average Internet connection, Fiber blows away the competition, but has been painfully slow in becoming available to the masses. A recent move, however, may signal a change is on the horizon, one that could mean Fiber won't be a niche player any longer.
There's no denying that Google Fiber is becoming a fascination to U.S. consumers. Local government officials in Portland, Oregon, one of Fiber's most recent potential markets, acted at remarkable speed to approve the introduction of Google's Internet connectivity solution. And there are plans to roll out Fiber to several more cities across the country as well. But even with Google's Fiber expansion plans in full swing, it remains a far cry from becoming a viable solution for the majority of the country anytime soon.
But that could be about to change with the hire of a new Fiber executive. Dennis Kish, a former bigwig with mobile chip king Qualcomm, was recently hired as Google Fiber's new vice president. What makes the hire of Kish intriguing for Fiber fans is that he was brought on, so say the industry pundits, to get Fiber out to the masses.
Fiber is already being rolled out to select cities, but in a brutally slow manner. If Fiber is going to become a significant piece of Google's Internet empire, the city here, city there, introductions we've seen to date simply won't do. And that's where Kish enters the picture. As it stands, even with all the hype surrounding Google Fiber, it's only available in the two Kansas City's (Missouri and Kansas) and Provo, Utah. Sure, cities like Austin, Texas and the aforementioned Portland have given their respective seals of approval, but it'll likely be next year, or longer, before residents actually have Fiber access.
That is one of the key missions for Kish: getting Fiber out to the additional 34 cities already on Google's expansion list, not to mention utilizing his operational expertise to find ways to grow it even further and, just as importantly, faster.
Why so slow?
The process of getting Fiber out to the masses has been so slow because of the requisite bureaucratic red tape, which generally includes approving significant tax incentives for Google, and building out the necessary infrastructure. As it stands, the process from approval to citizens actually having access to lightning-fast Internet speeds takes years from beginning to end. During that time, folks like Frontier (NASDAQ:FTR) are taking the opportunity to slam Fiber as often as possible, potentially undermining the service before it's able to prove itself.
The arguments against Fiber from Frontier's CEO Maggie Wilderotter echo those of other Internet providers who've "recently discovered" that they, too, can provide faster Internet connection services to their customers. Wilderotter and others say U.S. consumers don't need connectivity speeds 100 times faster than today's average. Now that cable providers like Frontier and multiple telecoms have miraculously determined they're able to offer customers a faster Internet, they claim they can do so for less cost than Fiber's $70 a month.
Final Foolish thoughts
Kish certainly has some challenges in front him, namely cutting down the barriers to entry Fiber currently faces. Extraordinarily long governmental processes, combined with demanding infrastructure requirements, means getting Fiber to customers is an arduous task. And folks like Wilderotter are taking advantage of that. What Wilderotter doesn't appreciate is that part of what makes Fiber such an attractive alternative is that it's not provided by a cable operator.
Frontier and others of their ilk can't seem to digest that a service that gives U.S. consumers a chance to fire their cable provider is attractive in and of itself, let alone ousting them for a better service than they currently offer. But Kish needs to get moving because right now the process of making Fiber a viable alternative for all U.S. consumers is simply too long, and too difficult.
Tim Brugger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Google (A shares) and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.