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Google's Mystery Barge

Even 48 containers would be a small portion of such a ship's cargo. It could be taken off and re-assembled at any main cargo port, giving Google a dominant market share there.

Or, if some of the units can act on their own, they could be trucked inland and deliver services in areas too remote to get service today. You could be looking at a complete high-speed Internet service, with wireless access.

A barge of this size could also include offices. On a recent trip to Europe, I saw containers being used in just this way. Combining containers with offices and computers as a central center, and then adding some that can be off-loaded and linked back wirelessly, could quickly extend the company's reach.

If the system is replicable, it could be transformative.

Google is a member of the Alliance for an Affordable Internet and has written on its Africa Blog about technologies that might bring broadband Internet access to the 5 billion people who presently don't have it.

The Alliance for an Affordable Internet, or A4AI for short, has a number of corporate, foundation and government-linked members to help fund such a project.

A center this size would work only with the cooperation of a local government. Such a government would need a certain level of stability to assure Google its investment would not be wasted.

So here's my theory: The Portland center goes to Ghana and the one in San Francisco Bay is off to Vietnam.

At the time of publication, the author was long Google.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and a tech reporter since 1982. His specialty has been getting to the future ahead of the crowd, then leaving before success arrived. That meant covering the Internet in 1985, e-commerce in 1994, the Internet of Things in 2005, open source in 2005 and, since 2010, renewable energy. He has written for every medium from newspapers and magazines to Web sites, from books to blogs. He still seeks tomorrow from his Craftsman home in Atlanta.
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