Google Fiber expansion changes outlook on computer technology

The recently announced expansion of Google Fiber to the Phoenix metro area might bring not only 100-times-faster internet connection but also change the conventional use of technology.

The proposed speed of 1,000 mbps will make it convenient to store and access all information in the cloud, allowing people to save money on devices with large storage and even to give up some smart equipment.

Gail-Joon Ahn, ASU professor and director of the Laboratory of Security Engineering for Future Computing, said that with Google Fiber, people will be able to run all their tasks on Google servers, which means there will be no need to purchase devices with large capacity.

“(Google servers) will just display the execution to your device,” Ahn said. “In other words, your device will be just a dummy terminal; you don’t have to put everything over there.”

The concept can be simply explained with the popular application Angry Birds, Ahn said. To play the game, users download it first and then run it on their devices, using storage and battery power. With the new approach, people might have to forget about the usual practice.

“I don’t want to use my power, and I don’t want to run that application in my device,” he said. “Cloud server will run that application for me. What I can do is just widget a website. Angry (Birds) is running over there, they can display the activities to my devices, so I can enjoy the same thing, but everything will be over there.”

As all applications will be stored and run in a very powerful cloud server, users may not need any costly equipment anymore. Students will no longer have to go to specialized labs seeking computer power for computer-aided design because Google servers will execute all activities.

“My view is if we can do it for academic and research, it’ll be super, because then you don’t have to spend a lot of our resources to purchase these expensive devices anymore,” he said.

Such an approach will also lower the prices of electronic devices, Ahn said.

“Eventually it will affect all of the computer devices' prices too, because you need just a web interface,” he said. "That's it."

The key for the innovative approach is the speed — it has to be high enough to allow users run their tasks in the cloud without delays.

“If it’s slow, I don’t think people will use it,” Ahn said.

Another expected change from the new service is bringing competition to the market and reducing prices.

Associate professor Partha Dasgupta sees the main advantage of Google Fiber in putting the pressure on local providers.

“The great thing is it brings down the cost of other providers. It’s competition, and we need competition, especially in Phoenix,” he said. “Most places in California and other places you can get pretty good DSL connection for $20 a month; here, you cannot.”

Given that ASU has its own connection to Internet, Google Fiber may never expand to the University, Dasgupta said.

He said even with ASU's large student population, the Internet connection is fine for most of the day, but the equipment needs an upgrade.

As for the residential service, there are some doubts to whether people need such high speed, he added.

“The point is, who needs it?” he said. “If you want to download (a) movie in three minutes, you may want to. But for streaming movies, you don’t need it. If you are a fanatic gamer or a huge movie buff, depends on what you are trying to do with it. Because at home how much speed do you need?”

The expansion of Google Fiber to the Phoenix metro area caused various reactions among students as well.

Computer science graduate student Narasimha Gollapudi said Google Fiber might be beneficial for the business community, but he is satisfied with the connection both at ASU and at his house.

“Maybe you can stream games online pretty faster, other than that I don’t see much higher performance,” he said. “I think the one which I use — 40 mbps or something — that should be enough for my use.”

Computer science graduate student Ziming Zhao, on the contrary, said the new Internet connection could benefit ASU’s academic life and enhance his personal experience.

“Well, obviously all of us are excited," he said. "We may experience the fastest Internet ever. With this fast Internet we can do a lot of research which we could only imagine before. And there’re a lot of new applications now like TV; they require a lot of high bandwidth, which was not possible before.”

The only aspect that raises both Ahn’s and Zhao’s concerns is the privacy of the users.

“If Google is using fiber network channels, they can see everything,” Ahn said.

Zhao said Google Fiber might bring some potential risks to Internet users.

“Google is a company; we don’t really know what is their motivation, whether they have anything behind this all?” Zhao said. “You never know what kind of challenges it brings, but as long as it’s here, we’d find a lot of opportunities.”

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @KseniaMaryasova

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