Mark Strama, the current head of Google Fiber in Austin and former member of the Texas House of Representatives, gave the keynote address at the 2014 Greater San Marcos Economic Outlook convention on May 22.
Google Fiber is Google’s latest endeavor, providing broadband Internet and television to a small but growing number of locations via a fiber-to-the-premise service, according to the Google Fiber website. In April 2013, it was announced that Austin would become a “Google Fiber City,” and that residents would be among the first to have access to the service, according to Google’s blog.
Americans pay more for Internet than any other country, but only have the eighth-fastest Internet speeds in the world, Strama said. Google Fiber would enable users to “surf the Internet” 100 times faster by switching to gigabits, Strama said.
In his keynote address at the San Marcos Embassy Suites, Strama discussed the importance of innovations in technology and the difference “mere speed” can make in those advances.
“You can use the Internet in fundamentally different ways as speed increases, and it becomes a fundamentally different thing” Strama said. “It can play a fundamentally different role in your society and your economy when you can use it for different applications,”
Three new applications that could arise from a faster connection are those in healthcare, education, and high-definition video conferencing, Strama said.
“What applications will emerge when we move from today’s broadband speeds to gigabit Internet speeds?” Strama said. “One could speculate that in a gigabit-enabled world, there will be awesome applications for healthcare, that we will be able to provide better healthcare for cheaper.”
In Provo, Utah, another “Google Fiber City,” the gigabits are already being put to use in the medical field, Strama said. A geneticist in Provo described Google Fiber as having “materially accelerated” the advancement of his research, thanks to gigabit high speeds, Strama said.
Strama hopes Google Fiber can facilitate online educational opportunities.
“We’ve got to find a way to leverage technology and make education both more effective and more efficient,” Strama said.
One application Strama feels certain will become “a hit” is high-definition video conferencing. While video-conferencing has already become relatively common, a higher-quality version will be a game changer, Strama said.
“You have probably already used video conferencing, from your laptop,” Strama said. “But because of the limitations of bandwidth, it’s probably pixelated, the sound and the video isn’t always in sync, and it’s not a really satisfying experience.”
By pairing unlimited bandwidth to transmit data with quality high-definition webcams and computer screens, Google Fiber users could potentially upgrade the video conferencing experience entirely, Strama said.
“Think of your cell phone, e-mail, the technology that has been introduced into your life in the past 10 or 15 years that makes you go ‘What did I do before I had that?’” Strama said. “My guess is that really good, high definition video conference technology will be the next one.”
“Speed and bandwidth is the driver behind these opportunities for innovation.” Strama said. “Google profoundly believes this to be what matters.”