In June ’09 Google posted a letter in support of the FCC’s forthcoming National Broadband Plan that starts with,

Open, ubiquitous broadband connectivity holds the promise to catapult America to the next level of competitiveness, productivity, education, health, and security — but how do we get there from here?

The letter goes on to make a number of recommendations most of which are centered around ways to increase the installation of fiber optic networks nationwide.

Last week Google announced their intention to put their money where their mouth is launch an fiber optic broadband networks in various locations to “experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone.”  Google wants to deliver gigabit connection speeds to between 50 and 500 thousand people at “a competitive price.”

The big G’s plan is to spend a couple billion dollars experimenting with techniques to efficiently roll out the networks and get the most out of the networks by enabling new technologies then share those findings to help the rollout nationally.

No doubt Google plans on making money through this endeavor and the idea of Google controlling another major aspect of the internet experience is scary, but they have remained pretty un-evil thus far and there are reasons to believe them on this one.  Google benefits from every additional internet user in the world so by working to rollout high-speed connectivity to more users they are creating a larger market for their services (this follows their strategy of giving away base services for free and making money elsewhere).

I’d expect there to be a gISP, but even if that’s not a major element of the strategy a national 5Mbps network (as called for in the letter) would deliver current and yet to be developed applications at blazing speeds to a lot more people.  Google has been a vocal advocate of net neutrality and has emphasized that any networks they own will be operated with open access policies.

The rollout of fiber optic networks nationally is a big deal.  The United States lags behind Europe and Asia in broadband speeds and many people argue that it hurts our economy in many ways.  Delivering that kind of bandwidth means a whole new set of applications and services that can be developed and brought to users in the home (including IP based TV and advanced mobile wireless broadband networks).  In theory, this should all encourage competition and drive down prices while delivering additional value to the users.

Google’s active involvement in increasing broadband rollout is great, but the really interesting stuff will come to light when the FCC brings the National Broadband Plan to Congress on March 17th.  How will the government jump start this rollout?  I don’t know, but I sure hope I get fiber optic access in my area soon!

For now, Google is looking for interested communities (and unless your community doesn’t care about the internet, you should be interested).

Until there is more news you can check out the Google Blog and the LA Times.