Is Google planning to fibre Britain?

Google emerges as a surprise contender to invest in Britain's fibre broadband network

Barry Collins
11 Feb 2010

Google has emerged as a surprise contender to invest in Britain's fibre broadband network.

The search giant yesterday announced plans to build a gigabit fibre broadband network in the US. The test network will see Google deliver fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connections to up to half a million US homes.

The move raises the possibility that Google is behind the Conservatives' ambitious plans to deliver nationwide 100Mbits/sec connections by 2017.

Parliamentary sources have told PC Pro that the Tories' plans were based on foreign investment in the UK broadband network. Google is one of the few companies with the necessary capital and motivation to invest in British broadband. Google latest financial results reveal that 12% of the company's revenue comes from the UK.

Sources at both BT and Virgin Media have told PC Pro that they were taken by surprise by the Tories' announcement, suggesting that both companies have no plans to increase their investment in the fibre network. BT has already committed £1.5 billion to a fibre rollout that will reach 10 million British properties, but has repeatedly stated that there's no economic case for extending its investment further.

Earlier this week, BT said it would be prepared to give rival companies access to its underground ducts, potentially lowering the cost of a fibre rollout. That would allow Google to lay fibre in the so-called last mile, as it plans to do in the US, without having to dig up roads.

The Conservatives and Google already have close links. Last year, Tory leader David Cameron appointed Google CEO Eric Schmidt to a committee of "top talent" that would help lead Britain out of recession.

Google was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

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