google_fiberGoogle announced yesterday that they are now studying Chicago and Los Angeles for Google Fiber markets . Should they eventually build there, these two markets would be their largest to date, by far. It’s a long complex process and Google Fiber in one or both of these markets is in no way assured. But Google’s recent moves with Google Fiber demonstrate the ‘experiment’ of offering broadband has long since passed, and Google is positioning itself as a national ISP to be reckoned with.

Going after the nation’s second and third largest markets and taking on the likes of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and AT&T in the process, is no trivial task.

“Home to a combined 6+ million people, Chicago and L.A. are the two largest metros we’ve engaged with to date,” said Jill Szuchmacher, Director, Google Fiber Expansion in a blog post announcing the move. “And with the help of gigabit Internet, Chicago and L.A. can boost their creative cultures with Internet speed to match their size.”

Google will kick-off their ‘checklist process,’ which involves collaborating with city stakeholders to collect data that Google will use to determine if expansion into those markets makes sense. Google has shrewdly changed the game for bringing broadband to cities, who now work to meet Google’s demands for concessions to bring Google Fiber to their respective cities.

“While we can’t guarantee that we’ll be able to bring Fiber to Chicago and L.A., this is a big step for these cities and their leaders,’ says Szuchmacher.

Google Fiber Experiment?
Google just recently announced potential expansion into Oklahoma City, OK; Jacksonville, FL and Tampa, FL. To date Google Fiber is operating in 3 markets, under construction in 6 markets, and studying expansion into 11 markets. Whatever happens with these expansion plans, this footprint constitutes a major tier 1 broadband ISP. The idea that this is a Google Fiber experiment no longer applies.

Source: Google Footprint Map

Google Fiber Footprint (Source: Google)

Google hasn’t released subscriber numbers, but given their recent corporate restructuring, the Google Fiber business line should begin to release metrics on its own. One would hope anyway. There has been a void of actual metrics concerning gigabit service in the U.S.

Google’s increasing FTTH footprint has significant competitive implications (unless you’re Verizon in one sense), that go well beyond the actual markets they serve. They are one reason AT&T is on a gigabit FTTH expansion of their own. Their approach and expansion is also one reason why so many communities are challenging incumbents to provide better, faster service, even if Google will never offer service there.

Google’s move into the ISP business also has been a catalyst to the growing municipal broadband movement in the U.S., where municipalities are saying if we can’t get Google to come to our community, we’ll just build and operate a similar style network on our own.