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Is Google planning to fibre Britain?

Speed blur

By Barry Collins

Posted on 11 Feb 2010 at 08:23

Google has emerged as a surprise contender to invest in Britain's fibre broadband network.

The search giant yesterday announced plans to build a gigabit fibre broadband network in the US. The test network will see Google deliver fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connections to up to half a million US homes.

The move raises the possibility that Google is behind the Conservatives' ambitious plans to deliver nationwide 100Mbits/sec connections by 2017.

Parliamentary sources have told PC Pro that the Tories' plans were based on foreign investment in the UK broadband network. Google is one of the few companies with the necessary capital and motivation to invest in British broadband. Google latest financial results reveal that 12% of the company's revenue comes from the UK.

Sources at both BT and Virgin Media have told PC Pro that they were taken by surprise by the Tories' announcement, suggesting that both companies have no plans to increase their investment in the fibre network. BT has already committed £1.5 billion to a fibre rollout that will reach 10 million British properties, but has repeatedly stated that there's no economic case for extending its investment further.

Earlier this week, BT said it would be prepared to give rival companies access to its underground ducts, potentially lowering the cost of a fibre rollout. That would allow Google to lay fibre in the so-called last mile, as it plans to do in the US, without having to dig up roads.

The Conservatives and Google already have close links. Last year, Tory leader David Cameron appointed Google CEO Eric Schmidt to a committee of "top talent" that would help lead Britain out of recession.

Google was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

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User comments


This sounds like a very promising rumour, lets hope that it is true. I would imagine the deal between the Tories and Google is that legislation will be put in place following their winning the election to force all duct network owners to allow access to competitors. I now actually have hope of getting better than 512kb or less "broadband" by 2017 where we live!

By skarlock on 11 Feb 2010

Phorm by any other name...

Am I the only one who is weary of a advertising specialist running the infrastructure of our networks.

By SimonCorlett on 11 Feb 2010

Google is actually much better placed to run high-speed fibre than most other companies. You've got to remember it's a vital part of their own infrastructure which makes Google searches so fast and reliable. This means their network team already has extensive experience of the fastest network money can currently buy, so I actually would feel more confident with Google putting in a successful fibre network than BT any day of the week.

By skarlock on 11 Feb 2010

The question is would they want to run a line into places that no one else will go - I think not - it all down to how much money they make out of a certain area/region etc - if the figures do not add up they will not go there - they are a PLC company after all and in law the first duty of the company is to its share holders and how much money it makes


By mprltd on 11 Feb 2010


Let's say Google control search in this country. Then by this rollout the control the infrastructure. So they control how we access money, how we make money, and how we spend money. MMmmm... How much control do we really want to give to one company? Didn't Microsoft get broken up over less amounts of control?

By CraigieDD on 11 Feb 2010

Honestly, I really don't worry that much (yet), but currently am so frustrated with our net connection options being so slow that even iPlayer is barely usable except at quiet times of day.

By skarlock on 11 Feb 2010

This isn't at all a way of boosting the possibility of Chorme OS to more people is it?

By rlsdaveas2000 on 11 Feb 2010

The test network will see Google deliver fibre-to-the-premises

This is the stopper. How many premises are fed overhead for the last mile or more, I cannot see a fibre link to my house or any other in the village. This will be the same old story of Towns only.

By anthonywilliam on 11 Feb 2010

Utter rubbish

Google says quite emphatically that it has no plans to build FTTH network beyond its trial communities in the US.

It doesn't even want to be a service provider. This is a network test-bed that will give the company a glimpse of what it's business might look like in 10 years time.

I have to say I love the way you've put 2 and 2 together and come up with 127.

By opticalgirl on 12 Feb 2010

you should get your facts right...

the original article said up to half a million people would get a connection, that isn't half a million homes...
... but hey, if google can prove it is viable to run fibre and make a profit it might wake up the incumbents who are quite happy sitting on their copper cabal and killing the golden goose that could have been digitalbritain.

By cyberdoyle on 12 Feb 2010

I've got two things to say here. Firstly that this is a good thing if, and only if, Google attempts to make significant inroads into the no-cable zones. If it just tries to cash in on lucrative city and suburban areas that are already cabled or already have good ADSL links, then this a a useless move that will just fragment the market.

Secondly, Britain wouldn't need nearly so much cable infrastructure if people simply chucked the spammers and bot nets off that send millions junk packets out to who knows where, and properly regulated P2P traffic which accounts for a shocking percentage of all bandwidth consumed.

If you provide a high speed network but you don't manage the traffic then idiot P2P users and criminals will simply expand their uploading/downloading to take up the extra bandwidth, and the UK will be back to where it began, with a creaky network jammed up with small P2P packets that take up significantly more routing and processing time, and have significantly more total overheads, than well regulated data does.

By Perfectblue97 on 12 Feb 2010

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