In June of last year Google unveiled Google Loon
, the latest in a long line of similar projects that will use hot air balloons to deliver broadband and wireless services to under-served or emergency prone areas. Project Loon will use hot air balloons 49 feet wide stationed 12 miles above the planet, well above the range of commercial aircraft. Ground base stations set some sixty miles apart communicate with solar-powered radio transmitters affixed to the balloons, and Google steers the balloons using wind as they ride the 40th parallel.
Not everybody has been optimistic that Google Loon will ever be more than a fun hobby for Google. Avid balloonist and aeronautical engineer Per Lindstrand stated that the company was wasting their time on the effort
, saying the winds up there are simply too fierce to keep reasonable control of the balloons over longer periods of time (more than a few days).
In an update on the project at the Wall Street Journal
, Google insists they're making progress on these issues and has been able to deliver speeds up to 22 Mbps:
Astro Teller, who as “chief of moonshots” runs the company’s Google X research lab, said at the MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference that Project Loon should have a “semi-permanent” ring of balloons floating across the southern hemisphere in the next year or so. The balloons have logged more than two million kilometers in testing, he added....During the tests in Brazil, Google said the balloons transferred data at 22 megabits per second to ground antennas and five megabits per second to smart phones. The average Internet speed in the U.S. is just over 10 megabits per second, according to Akamai.
Things haven't been all smooth; one test knocked out power lines in New Zealand
, resulting in Google creating a balloon recovery team headed by a former California search and rescue mountaineering expert.
It has been interested to see lately how Apple and Google have effectively started competing on privacy -- both companies announcing recently
that new encryption standards used on their latest OS's and devices mean they'll no longer unlock devices at the behest of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Not too surprisingly this shift has annoyed the FBI; the agency's James Comey not so subtly insisting that both Google and Apple are putting people's lives at risks with the shift
"What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law," Comey said. At another point, he said he feared a moment when “when people with tears in their eyes look at me and say, ‘What do you mean you can’t?"' Comey said he was gathering more information about the issue and would have more to say about it later.
Granted the FBI might not have found itself in this position if its collection of consumer data had been a little more reasonable in the first place, and the agency hadn't spent a good chunk of the last decade over-reaching and finding creative ways to dodge the law
Comcast last night filed their reply comments to the FCC as the agency considers approving the company's $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The filing is filled with the sort of arguments we've seen countless times already
over the past few months, including Comcast's repeated claim that they face so much competition on every front
there's simply no way they'd ever engage in anti-competitive behavior.
Earlier this month we highlighted how Google was under fire for funding the lobbyist organization ALEC
, a group that helps companies submit draft legislation that then gets lobbied into law. These efforts by and large are anti-consumer, with ALEC opposing network neutrality and supporting blockades on municipal broadband.
If you recall (and many don't), Google was partially responsible for the lack of network neutrality protections we see (or don't see, as the case may be) today. Google worked hard alongside AT&T and Verizon to make sure the rules had ample loopholes and didn't protect wireless. story continues..
The Wall Street Journal
again confirms that the NFL did hold talks with Google and Microsoft about the possibility of offering NFL game streaming over the Internet, but nothing so far has come of those talks. The NFL and DirecTV are rumored to be putting the finishing touches
on an extension of DirecTV's controversial exclusive Sunday Ticket arrangement to offer out of market NFL games.
The Wall Street Journal
has an interesting article exploring complaints on how Google Fiber (and responding, highly-selective deployments by CenturyLink, AT&T, and others) may fuel a digital divide by only upgrading select residents in certain cities. That said, the article claims that Google Fiber's ability to deploy fiber to just select locations helped save them 20% over traditional builds like Verizon's FiOS. "If Verizon resumes expansion, the company would consider Google's build-to-demand model because it has the potential to be more profitable," Verizon executive Chris Levendos tells the paper.
Back in April Cox Communications announced
that the company would be launching 1 Gbps service of their own sometime this year, though they failed to offer any meaningful specifics about where or when. In May, Cox provided a little more detail in an announcement
, stating that the company's deployment of 1 Gbps service will start start with new residential construction projects and new and existing neighborhoods in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Omaha.
Google announced back in February
that they were working with 34 potential new Google Fiber cities, requesting those cities fill out and agree to a fiber ready checklist
to make installation easier. Speaking on the company's earnings call last week
, Google SVP and CFO Patrick Pichette stated that the economics behind Google Fiber continue to improve, and that their work with those 34 cities continues. "Over the coming months we’ll actually be going through all of the details with them, whether it would be right away or permitting or otherwise, and that’s what we’re going to use to make decisions as to how broad a program will have," states Pichette. It remains entirely unclear how many of those 34 cities will actually see future Google Fiber builds.
The Internet Association -- a trade group representing 36 different Internet companies including Google, Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Yahoo, and PayPal -- have filed a formal request with the FCC
(pdf) urging the agency to pass "simple, light touch rules" protecting the even and fair delivery of content and services across broadband networks.
The companies call on the FCC to subject broadband ISPs to nondiscrimination, no-blocking, and "robust" transparency requirements, while also ensuring ISPs aren't hindering competitors through peering or other shenanigans.
In April of last year when Google announced they'd be bringing Google Fiber to Austin
, the company stated they expected Austin users to start being hooked up around the middle of 2014. The halfway of the point has rolled on past, and Google now seems to be indicating the first Austin Google Fiber users will be hooked up sometime "later this year." To be fair mid-year wasn't a particularly hard deadline, and the company tells Multichannel News
that projects of this scale "takes a whole lot of time to plan for":
“Construction is underway, and we plan to open sign-ups and start hooking up our first Austin customers later this year,” Google Fiber spokeswoman Jenna Wandres said via email...“It’s a big construction project, so it takes a whole lot of time to plan for,” she added, according to the report. “We’re working as quickly as we can to get Fiber to Austin residents soon, and we hope to have more information to share soon. It’s a lot of work, and we want to make sure we are doing it right."
In the coming months the company should announce "fiberhood" rallies that will dictate which neighborhoods will be the first to get service.
Previously, we have discussed a number
in Kansas City where those installing Google Fiber were "butchering
" the homeowner’s property. Although Google says they're learning as they go, complaints are still rolling in about installers tearing apart property with rutted lawns and busted gas lines.
Earlier this week we noted how Google Chromebook Pixel buyers were told they'd get two years of free LTE data, only to have Verizon forget the deal ever existed after one year
. After the problem gained some attention over at ComputerWorld, Google has started offering users $150 VISA gift cards
to make up for it. "While this particular issue is outside of our control, we appreciate that this issue has inconvenienced some of our users," the Google spokesperson said.
As part of the company's ongoing expansion into, oh, everything
, Google has announced
that they're testing a domain registration service dubbed Google Domains
that's currently invite only. "Google Domains isn’t fully-featured yet, but we’re giving a small group of people the ability to buy and transfer domains through it and send feedback on their experience," notes the company. "We want input on all the ways we can help make finding, buying, transferring and managing a domain a simple and transparent experience," insists Google. The announcement comes just a few weeks after GoDaddy filed their long-awaited IPO.
One of the broadband balloons used by Google for the company's Loon
initiative caused a bit of a ruckus in New Zealand recently when locals mistook the balloon for a crashing plane. According to the Wall Street Journal
, a variety of emergency services were dispatched including a rescue helicopter, only to find a deflated balloon. Since launching Project Loon in New Zealand last year, we’ve continued to do research flights to improve the technology,” a Google spokesman told the Journal. Aside from the occasional knocking out of power lines
, a recent update
notes the project is making good strides at keeping balloons aloft longer to deliver speeds of 5 to 22 Mbps.
In June of last year Google unveiled Google Loon
, the latest in a long line of similar projects that will use hot air balloons to deliver broadband and wireless services to under-served or emergency prone areas. Project Loon will use hot air balloons 49 feet wide stationed 12 miles above the planet, well above the range of commercial aircraft.
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