Last year, when Comcast announced its plan to purchase Time Warner Cable, the deal came under heavy scrutiny from consumer advocates. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, one of the Senate’s most liberal members, called the proposed deal “a disaster.” In a letter to the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission, Franken lobbied against the deal, stating: “I have serious reservations about this proposed transaction, which would consolidate the largest and second largest cable providers in America. I urge you to act quickly and decisively to ensure that consumers are not exposed to increased cable prices and decreased quality of service as a result of this transaction.”

Franken’s complaints over the proposed merger echo complaints commonly heard about Comcast’s cable and internet services. Due to the company’s massive market share, consumers often have no choice but to purchase from Comcast, despite rising prices and poor service.

However, consumers in Nashville, home of the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, may not be beholden to Comcast for much longer. This January, Google announced that Google Fiber will be coming to Nashville. Google Fiber is an “ultra high-speed broadband network” which “deliver[s] Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today.” Google has committed to “offer service at a competitive price “in order to “make Internet access better and faster for everyone.” Google Fiber is already live in three cities, and Nashville will soon be joining that list.

While Google Fiber will not address all of the competiveness concerns raised by Comcast’s media empire, it has the potential to emerge as a legitimate competitor to the country’s largest internet provider. If Google Fiber can continue to expand, while offering internet service that is faster and cheaper than that provided by Comcast, it could force Comcast to reduce its prices and improve its service. This would address many of Senator Franken’s concerns, and begin to restore competiveness to the cable and internet markets in the United States.

Daniel Rheiner

3 Responses to Google Fiber Comes to Nashville, Should Comcast be Worried?

  1. Chris Borns says:

    It will be very interesting to see how smoothly (or not) the roll-out of Google Fiber in Nashville goes. While Google will surely face some growing pains, such as the previously mentioned access issues, the need for competition is there. Judging by Google’s past track record of success, however, I believe that Google will build upon the experiences of the cities within which Fiber is current live, and I truly believe that Nashville will be happy with the results.

  2. Chris Martucci says:

    My first thought was that “100x faster” sounds great, but will the average consumer really notice the difference? I have (was forced to purchase) Comcast’s “business” internet — 50mbps download, compared to the normal 10-15mbps. No discernible difference, unless you have 10+ people on the same network. I know 50mb isn’t 1000mb, but there are diminishing returns…

    Having said that, I’m sure Google Fiber will feel fast, but I have a feeling that when it comes to competition, the name of the game is going to be customer service, not speed. On that note, both Google and Comcast have terrible reputations.

  3. Neil Issar says:

    Interestingly, reclassifying broadband providers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act might be necessary to ensure that Google Fiber can actually be competitive against Comcast. This is because Google has reportedly had trouble gaining access to some utility poles, ducts, conduits, and rights of way while it has been rolling out Google Fiber in new cities. Title II reclassification would increase regulations for ISPs, but may facilitate Google Fiber’s move to markets like Nashville.