Google finally launches its US high-speed fibre service in Kansas City and hopes to prove that there is a latent demand for an affordable, ultra high-speed broadband service. Guy Daniels reports.
The residents of Kansas City – whether they be to the west of the state line in Kansas on east in Missouri – are getting closer to becoming the first users of Google’s fibre city project. Milo Medin, Vice President of Access Services at Google, announced the launch of its Google Fiber service in Kansas City yesterday:
“Today, we’re excited to announce Google Fiber. Google Fiber is 100 times faster than today’s average broadband. No more buffering. No more loading. No more waiting. Gigabit speeds will get rid of these pesky, archaic problems and open up new opportunities for the web. Imagine: instantaneous sharing; truly global education; medical appointments with 3D imaging; even new industries that we haven’t even dreamed of, powered by a gig.”
More than 1,100 cities submitted an application to become the first (of several, if Google gets this first scheme to work properly) city in the US to have a comprehensive gigabit access network from Google. There are, of course, other gigabit communities, most notably Chattanooga, but an increase in anti-competitive legislation means that it is becoming more difficult for municipalities in the US to take matters into their own hands and launch their own networks when the incumbents can’t be bothered to provide a decent service.
But back to Google’s ground-breaking project. It’s asking eligible residents to pre-register for service, then to go and spread the word to their friends and neighbours (social networking made real). However, Google will only provide service to areas of the city where sufficient people (around 10 per cent of households) have pre-registered for a $10 fee… It calls these divisions “fiberhoods”, as Kevin Lo, General Manager for Google Access, explains:
“Google Fiber works better when communities are connected together. We’ll install only where there’s enough interest, and we’ll install sooner in fiberhoods where there’s more interest.”
Or rather, the economics of Google Fibre work better when there is denser service take-up.
Makes sense, and it has the potential to embarrass the cable and fibre incumbents who claim there is no interest in gigabit services.
Google executives at the launch were at pains to point out that the Google Fiber project in Kansas City is not going to be a loss-making service. But at the same time, they stressed that neither is it about making profits, rather its aim is to change the model for access costs.
The GigaOm website quotes research that suggests it costs Verizon on average $670 to run fibre past each of the 17 million homes in its service footprint. Google, however, is keeping tight-lipped about its costs. It suggests though that Google is making savings by customising its infrastructure and access products – and manufacturing some itself – in the same way that it builds out its data centres. It also has the full cooperation of the city authorities to access utility poles and ducts for its cable rollout.
Google’s social campaign last for six weeks, with the highest pre-registration percentage “fiberhoods” receiving service shortly after the rally ends, and all qualifying neighborhoods getting service before the end of 2013. If a specific fiberhood reaches its pre-registration goal, Google will also connect community buildings like schools, libraries and hospitals to the Gigabit service.
There are three service packages available for homes in qualifying ‘hoods: Gigabit + Google Fiber TV; Gigabit Internet; and Free Internet.
In reverse order, the free service is just that – free, almost. After paying a $300 “construction fee”, users get a 5Mbit/s connection (around average for the US, although some of us still dream of a 5Mbit/s connection, no matter what the price…). For $70 a month, you get the Gigabit package, which also comes with 1TB of cloud storage on Google Drive and there’s no initial fee. However, for $120 per month, you get the gigabit service plus cable TV (strangely, no HBO yet). Google includes eight simultaneous HD tuners, 2TB of DVR storage and even a Nexus 7 Android tablet to act as the second-screen remote.
Milo Medin added:
“When we asked people what they value in their Internet service, the majority of them simply said, ‘choice’. So we listened. This is an exciting new project for Google and we can’t wait to get homes connected to Google Fiber in Kansas City—because we’re pretty certain that what people do with a gig will be awesome.”
Google is banking on collecting a sizeable number of $10 pre-registrations. Only then will it be able to prove that the telecoms and cable companies have got it wrong – there is interest in reliable, high speed broadband, and there is a willingness to pay a reasonable amount for such a service. People like having a choice. Let’s hope Google can provide it in Kansas City, and that it creates a new affordable access model for other communities around the world.
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