Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Google Brings Internet of the Future, TV of the Past to Austin

jetsonsGoogle Fiber announces that it’s going to offer super-fast broadband in Austin, Texas, and then AT&T says it’s going to do the same.

That’s very cool, and that’s a reason to cheer on Google as it starts to expand its Fiber project outside of Kansas City — if Google really does prompt other pipe guys to improve their product to compete, you can’t ask for more.

But again, a reminder: When it comes to the TV part of Fiber, Google is acting just like any other pay TV company — you give it a bunch of money, and it gives you a bunch of channels, no matter which ones you actually watch.

That’s the bundle concept that ties together the entire TV Industrial Complex, and while lots of people are always talking about breaking the bundle, no one’s done it yet. And Google doesn’t seem interested in trying to do it here.

Google is annoyingly vague about the TV channels it will have in Austin (and any other details about its offering). But it’s reasonable to assume that it’s going to look a lot* like the ones it offers in Kansas City.

At least some of the programmers it works with in Kansas City have deals that will allow Google to roll over the same offering into new territories, industry executives say. (See, Google? Not that hard.)

And there’s no reason for the channels not to support the move. Google gives the cable programmers what they want, which means deals to take all of their networks, at rates that are as least as high as the ones they negotiated with AT&T and Verizon, the last two big guys to enter the pay TV world.

Note that when Google announced its Kansas City rollout, it didn’t have programming deals with all of the big programmers nailed down. But since then, News Corp., Disney and Time Warner’s Turner channels have all signed on; the only real glaring holes are AMC’s networks, including AMC and IFC, and Time Warner’s HBO premium channel.

*One Austin channel Google is bragging about today that should be available is ESPN’s Longhorn Network, a must-have for University of Texas football fans. (Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Longhorn was not available via Google Fiber in Kansas City.)

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work