Last month, Google announced Google Fiber, which features download and upload speeds of 1 gigabit per second. That’s 100 times faster than the average broadband connection today, and the beginning of a completely new environment for musical creativity and innovation.
Consider this: with 1 Gbit Fiber speed, one could download an HD movie in a few seconds, or stream HD television effortlessly. Audio transfer becomes completely instantaneous, which means CPU-intensive, boundary-pushing technologies around musical collaboration will enter a breathtaking phase. Currently, only certain cable internet services offer speeds similar to this and most are designed for business use. Factor the exponentially-expanding speed of mobile bandwidth into this equation, and the possibilities start to multiply. Terabit and Petabit speeds will be just around the corner.
Imagine a world where DAWs (digital audio workstations, e.g. ProTools) could function seamlessly across users and their mobile devices in the cloud. Actually, a few companies have already gotten the jump on cloud-based music software. For example, ProTools 10 has already introduced a form of this feature, teaming up with SoundCloud. Others like AudioTool and Indaba Mantis are both tools for recording music, but one would have a hard time calling them DAWs with a straight face. However, with internet speeds ramping to 100 gigabits, people will be able to work on music collaboratively on these platforms in realtime, adding tracks, making edits, adding effects, etc. It will be just like Google Docs, but for music makers.
Other possibilities are just getting etched. Jon Taplin of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab laid out a variety of music and video apps in the 1.5–8 Gbps range at the US Ignite Gigabit Applications Workshop. For example,
“Participatory Learning and You! (PLAY!) — in consultation with a new school district in Los Angeles comprising six schools in a low-income district that are built around a central media lab. The goal was to build a multimedia participatory learning system, in which kids could combine video, audio, graphics, etc., from many different locations and make projects together.”
Taplin provides the interesting perspective that ‘everything is TV‘. Simply put, we are moving from a ‘device-centric world to a subscriber-centric world… a location-dependent world to a location-independent world.’ The trend is reflected in disruptors such as Spotify, Netflix, Pandora, and Skype.
Along these lines, another potential application of super fast internet could be a sort of Skype for musicians. People could rehearse songs online without lugging equipment around, and enjoy very low lag and good audio quality.
Chances are Google isn’t really trying to challenge ISPs at all. It could be that they’re just trying to just embarrass the hell out of them, to try to get them up to speed. As it turns out, the US is ranked 28th in the world in broadband speed, and is falling behind. Last month, the FCC issued its Broadband Progress Report, which sadly showed little progress at all. The report confirmed that only 60 percent of Americans subscribe to broadband service at all, and a minority of those actually get download speeds of 4 megabits per second, the minimum required speed for actual broadband as defined by the FCC.
To see how far behind we are, just look at the Netherlands, where 1 Gigabit internet is soon to be ubiquitous (according to GigaOm). South Korea as well is soon to give every household access to gigabit internet.
Yet even as we discuss the potentials of 1 Gigabit speed, researchers anticipate that 1 Terabit speeds (1000 gigabits) will be unlocked by 2015. That’s fast, regardless of where the US fits in, and reason for innovators, disruptors, and big thinkers alike to let their imaginations run wild.
– Niko Malek