In a move that could expand its broadband presence beyond its Fiber project, Google announced today it has acquired wireless Internet network provider ICOA Inc. for $400 million...
ICOA provides wireless and wired networks in high-traffic public locations in the US, adding WiFi hotspot zones to airports, restaurants, universities, travel plazas, and many other public venues.
This is not a surprising move from Google. As I discuss in my post on Google Fiber, Google wants people to have fast internet access without any provider having too much leverage over Google. While it would be nice if Google just bought a company like Sprint, this isn't likely to happen for various reasons. Instead Google is moving into Wif access which (in the long-term) could threaten cellular data providers. Google prefers to focus on smaller areas to show what is possible, which can cause others to improve their quality of services, and allow Google to expand if it became necessary.
Although there are various issues involved in providing large areas with Wifi access, it would be interesting to see what Google does. While they probably won't try to provide city-wide Wifi all over, I think they might expand their Wifi enough to make a difference. While people may feel they need many GB of data from their cellular company now, they might change their mind if most of the locations they visit have good wifi access. People already have good wifi at home and work, so once they can get similar wifi at restaurants, airports and parks, they shouldn't need to use much 3G or 4G. This would help the user, but could harm the giant revenue