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Google Fiber: Internet, TV Will Never Be the Same

Google Fiber: Internet, TV Will Never Be the Same

This big bang may not seem like a big deal yet. Hell -- it's only in Kansas City. But you can be assured that every company in this space is looking very closely and measuring its next moves. The next few years could usher in a complete transformation of the traditional cable television model. What's the next step from Google in TV? That's up to today's competitors.

By Jeff Kagan
08/02/12 5:00 AM PT

Last week, Google started selling a very high-speed Internet and television service in Kansas City. This service stands a good chance of blowing customers' minds and changing expectations. The question is, will Google get into this business and compete with cable television and phone companies? Or is it doing this just to make a point? Only time will tell. Even Google doesn't know yet.

My Pick of the Week Comcast Xfinity's much-improved customer service operation. You'll be surprised. Or maybe you won't.

Is Broadband the New Dial-Up?

Google Fiber is now turning the pressure up on current cable television and telephone companies. Most of us currently get a few megabits of Internet download speed. Google offers 1 gigabit -- about a thousand times faster. Incredible.

Not everyone wants or needs that kind of speed today. Tomorrow, however, is a different story.

This is how companies like AT&T and Verizon currently offer television. They call their services uVerse and FiOS respectively, but it is Internet Protocol Television, or IPTV.

Cable television companies like Comcast, Time Warner and Cox are at biggest risk. So are satellite companies like DirecTV and DISH. They do things the way they have done things for quite a while.

Telephone companies like Verizon FiOS and AT&T uVerse are at less risk, but I'll bet you every provider is watching this Google adventure very closely.

What I now expect, going forward, is that speed and interoperability from all providers will increase.

Google is telling us to imagine, a few short years from now, that you'll be sitting watching television with your children in your lap, and you'll be watching Google Fiber TV.

You'll be telling the kids about the good ol' days when everyone used a phone company or cable television company to watch TV and surf the Web.

You'll explain how back then there were big companies with slow-as-molasses Internet service and ordinary television programming that you overpaid for month-after-month. And as for choice? Huh. Forget-about-it.

That's when your precious child looks you in the eyes with a perplexed look and says, is that like Google TV?

Yes the way we watch television and get Internet is about to change. Actually it's going through a major transformation that most don't yet understand. A few years ago, the telephone companies joined the battle.

The big bang of this new revolution started last week, when Google Fiber went live in Kansas City.

We thought IPTV from the telephone company was a big deal several years ago, but it was just another competitor in the same space. It didn't change the world -- but this new Google service just may.

Google and Apple changed wireless, didn't they? Is TV next?

Warning Shot or the Real Deal?

Google delivers a very high-speed Internet connection, and hundreds of TV channels, including local stations and programming on demand in HD.

Customers also get a Nexus 7 tablet to use as a remote control and can choose between three packages of service. You can choose Internet, television or both. The most expensive is about US$120 per month. Reasonably priced.

Look at today's marketplace. Cable television companies compete against satellite TV and telephone companies. They offer telephone, television and high-speed Internet.

The basic differences are cable television companies offer a faster Internet connection under certain conditions, and telephone companies offer wireless phones and 60,000 hot spots nationwide in places like Starbucks, McDonalds and more.

This new Google service turns the industry on its head. The big question: Is Google going to continue on this track and become an Internet service and television provider? Or is it just trying to make a point here?

I think Google had planned on launching this to make a point, but there is an opportunity here if traditional providers don't act.

This is an entirely new business for Google. Today, I think of this as a threat. It's a warning shot fired across the industry.

Either pick up your speed, Google says, or we will enter the marketplace on a nationwide scale and will decimate you.

Could that happen? Why not? It already has transformed many industries.

If Google has its way, the entire industry model is about to be turned on its head and completely reinvented. The good news is, this is the new model we can expect going forward.

It's not really unusual, either. After all, country after country has faster Internet service than we do here in the United States. Why?

This big bang may not seem like a big deal yet. Hell -- it's only in Kansas City. But you can be assured that every company in this space is looking very closely and measuring its next moves.

The next few years could usher in a complete transformation of the traditional cable television model.

What's the next step from Google in TV? That's up to today's competitors.

Yes Dorothy, there is a Wizard of Oz in Kansas City, and in the blink of an eye, Google intends to transform the way we think about television and broadband.
Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

My Pick of the Week is Comcast Xfinity's much improved customer service experience -- sort of.

Just to be clear, I am writing this while waiting on hold for the second or third time, trying to reach a live human being at Comcast. My patience is getting thinner and thinner.

The first time or two, I was told the wait would be in the 10-to-15-minute range. After 20 minutes, I hung up. After all, I have a life to lead and business to do.

One initial gripe is it keeps interrupting my thinking with commercials. Please give me the chance to wait in silence so I don't waste so much time.

This time I chose to have Comcast call me back. At least I could work while waiting. I was told it would be in the 26-to-39-minute range. Here's hoping.

So let me share a few important customer service tips with Comcast and any other company that wants to listen.

  1. Answer the phone. Waiting ticks customers off big time, and you lose.
  2. Solve the problem in the first couple of minutes on the first call.
  3. If you send a letter saying you are going to do something if the customer doesn't call, provide a quick way for the customer to reach you -- and answer the phone.
  4. Don't let the customer sit there and simmer. You are only cooking your goose.
  5. When a customer chooses to wait on hold, run a commercial or two, then shut up and let the customer work while waiting.
  6. Expand your customer service hours to seven days a week, 24 hours a day. This is 2012, after all.
  7. If you don't have enough operators to handle your customer services calls, hire more.
  8. Don't make customers punch their way through countless steps just to hear that you are too busy and would they please call back later. Tell them up front.

There is plenty more, but you get the general point, I hope. Think about this from the customer perspective. Whatever ticks you off also ticks off your customers. You should try using your own customer service as a customer. You may be very surprised and disappointed.

Cable television company customer service is actually better than it was. That is something -- but it's not enough.

The playing field is getting more competitive and you will lose unless you provide the kind of good care customers get with other providers.

Customers judge companies based on the best they have experienced with others. If you are not up in the top 10 percent, you will lose.

While I think Comcast has improved its customer service operations, and while that's a great start, it still has a long way to go.

Oh, wait -- Comcast is finally answering my call. Gotta go. Just for the record, I waited exactly one hour for a return call. Imagine that. Is that good customer care?

This is a problem only Comcast can fix.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a tech analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.


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