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Google Gooses Washington

Google's Gigabit experiment pushes rivals and prods regulators -- again.



) --

Superfast Net connections


Civil liberties in China


Carbon neutrality

. What's next for


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? Digitization of medical records? Taxation reform? A cure for baldness?

Google's Gigabit experiment to build limited fiber optic networks capable of 100-times faster Internet speeds has a familiar, sunny, change-the-world sweep to it. Like many of Google's well-intended strategies, the announcement Wednesday is as much a challenge to naysayers as it is an internal goal for Googlers far and wide.

Fiber optic networks are clearly the domain of telco and cable giants like


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Time Warner Cable


. And the referees in this skirmish are regulators at the Federal Communications Commission.

To all of them, Google just said, 'Let's not get comfy.'

The last time Google issued a dare to the telecom status quo was in 2007. Google bid $4.6 billion on federal air wave licenses under the condition that the winner of the auction would be required to keep the networks open to all qualified devices.

The move was an attempt to loosen big phone's grip on the features and applications that can be developed for mobile devices. To follow through, Google introduced its own Android-powered phone that it sells directly to consumers.

Ground breaking? Yes. Earth-shaking? Not quite. It's no


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iPhone, let's say.

Google's Gigabit experiment is similar to the open wireless push in that it hopes to prod development of new services that apparently have been thwarted by sluggish Web access.

"The purpose of this project is to experiment and learn," Google project managers Minnie Ingersoll and James Kelly wrote on the company's blog Wednesday.

Google's lucrative search ad business

gives it a degree of fiscal freedom to pursue blue sky experiments.

Outfits like Verizon, Comcast and Cablevision (CVC) are tethered to mountains of debt

, leaving little slack for creative research and development.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski applauded Google's move.

"Big broadband creates big opportunities," Genachowski said in a statement Wednesday. "This significant trial will provide an American testbed for the next generation of innovative, high-speed Internet apps, devices and services."

Like a Mayor Mike "Enforce Healthy Lifestyles" Bloomberg of free enterprise, Google's out to afflict the comfortable. Now let's see if it can reverse hair loss and bring comfort to the afflicted.

-- Written by Scott Moritz in New York

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