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Google Wants To Be Your ISP (Heaven Help You)

Google (GOOG) has announced plans to build high-speed data networks in a number of locations. In other words, Google eventually wants to be your ISP. It sounds good, in theory: 1 gigabit per second fiber to home connections at a "competitive price." The problem? If Google does it like every other business the company has entered (other than advertising), it's going to be a colossal train wreck for customers.

Google's interest in the telecommunications is longstanding:

  • At one point, Google was bidding for wireless spectrum to become a carrier.
  • Google Voice allows the company to offer telephone services without becoming subject to the rules and regulations of the FCC.
  • The Android operating system is Google's platform for mobile voice and data telecom.
  • The Nexus One is all about getting another foot into telecommunications.
  • Google is providing its own public DNS service to act like an Internet telephone directory.
It's easy to understand why Google is so interested in becoming a telecom provider: It would eventually diversify Google's revenues, while helping the company guarantee access to telecom services so it can continue to deliver advertisements (whether over a desktop, laptop, or handset). Also, telecom carriers own massive amounts of data on people and their communications habits, and to Google, that information is a gold mine. Google says their move to offer telecom service is about "new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone." Uh, no. It's about business.

And that's fine. But there are some big issues with Google going down this road. One is the concern over privacy. But let's put that aside for a moment. Another is the potential antitrust issue of the information gatherer also owning the physical delivery mechanism -- the creator of the content also owning the pipe that delivers it. Put that aside as well.

Instead, let's just focus on the third issue: customer service. One of the big enterprise complaints about Google Apps has been the lack of responsive customer service. Then look at the recent fiasco about the Nexus One and its lack of readiness to handle customer issues. If Nexus One owners had problems -- and they had many -- they had to deal with them online until, a month after it started selling the phone, Google deigned to add telephone support.

Perhaps Google can learn how to provide customer service, just like, perhaps one day, it will learn how to be good at marketing. But in neither case does the company seem to be in a hurry, and the ones who would end up really waiting impatiently would be the people who decided to depend on Google as an ISP.

Image via stock.xchng user bigevil600, site standard license.