The burgeoning corporate octopus that is Google Inc. has unfurled one more tentacle.
The search engine behemoth, fresh off releasing a phone and announcing new services to take on social-media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, has set its industry-altering sights on Internet service providers.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said yesterday it will build a super high-speed, fibre-to-the-home broadband Internet connection for up to 500,000 U.S. households.
But the decision is not a declaration of war on the telcos and cablecos that have traditionally provided the Internet's wired infrastructure, analysts say. It's an attempt, rather, to show exactly what's possible on the Net, with speeds up to 200 times faster than most Canadian Web surfers enjoy.
"I don't think [Google]wants to become a telecom provider, like I don't think they want to become a handset provider," said Genuity Capital Market's tech analyst, Deepak Chopra, referring to the Google-branded Nexus One smart phone released in January. "They want to push the envelope. They want to spur the development of bigger broadband connections."
Google makes its money through online advertising. It has tried to increase the amount of people accessing the Web through its own portals, such as its search engine or its operating system for mobile devices, Android. The launch of the Nexus One was widely seen as Google's attempt to stake out online advertising territory in the as-yet-untapped mobile search market, which will become crucial for the company as smart phones increasingly act as gateways to the Web.
"We've made no secret about the fact that we want the Internet to be fast and open," said Jacob Glick, Google Inc.'s Canada counsel.
Currently, he said, there is no real incentive for developers to think too far into the future, since Internet speeds are able to handle the most advanced services without much problem. However, as a posting on the official Google blog said, the company envisions a future where rural doctors can stream 3-D medical images and students can watch lectures in high-definition 3-D, virtually impossible now.
"It's hard to predict the future when you've been constrained in a particular box," Mr. Glick said, noting that YouTube was unthinkable when people used dial-up modems. "We're looking to provide basic infrastructure for that type of imagination."
Google was vague yesterday about details on its new broadband plan, saying only that it is putting a call out to interested U.S. municipal and state bodies interested in becoming partners for the project. There were no details on price or a time frame for construction.
Analysts compared the move to the Nexus One, saying Google is simply trying to ensure it is central to future applications.
"Behind that, there's a business model," said Tony Olvet, vice-president of research at IDC Canada.
As Web uses move beyond simple browsing, he said, Google wants to continue "to extend [its]dominance in online advertising, to more video-based content."