Note: This article has been updated. Scroll to the bottom to see the status in 2019.
Perhaps you’ve heard: Google Fiber selected Charlotte as one of the first nine cities where they will offer their internet and TV service. They have completed their initial surveys, mapped out locations for their networking equipment and begun putting fiber optic cable in the ground. The next step will be running thousands of miles of cable along neighborhood streets to bring service to individual subscribers.
What is Google Fiber?
Google Fiber will be another carrier providing internet and television service to individuals and, presumably, small businesses. As such, they will operate in direct competition with carriers such as Time Warner and AT&T.
Although no specifics are available for Charlotte, service is already available in Austin, Texas. There they offer an option of high speed internet or internet plus TV. Internet only is priced at $70 per month and over 150 channels of TV plus 8-channel recording adds another $60. They also have a basic internet-only service for a one-time installation fee of $300 which can be paid at $25 per month for a year. After the $300 is paid, there are no more charges.
Google’s Gigabit Internet is advertised as “up to1,000 Mbps.” That is approximately 20 times the speed currently advertised by the currently available major providers. Their prices for “up to 50 Mbps” are $35 and $65 for the first year. Google Basic Internet offers “up to 5 Mbps” with no costs after the initial fee. Realistically, most home users with typical usage probably would not notice a significant difference at speeds greater than 25 Mbps. For more information, see my blog post “What’s a gigabit” at http://TechnologyInterpreter.info.
Why should you be interested in Google Fiber?
Telecom and internet providers are notoriously weak in most customer service surveys. The $430 billion Google is known for tackling technological problems with a different viewpoint from traditional players. At the very least, encouraging Google will bring competition to the near monopoly of service currently available, even if you choose not to change your provider.
Furthermore, Charlotte was honored to be chosen by Google immediately after the first three pilot cities. Supporting Google will prove to the rest of the country that Charlotte believes in the 21st century.
Building a completely new infrastructure is a major task and Google will not be able to offer it to the entire city at once. As yet, they have not announced what areas they will start in, but they are collecting addresses to determine what areas show the most interest. Register at https://fiber.google.com/cities/charlotte/ and if enough of your neighbors also do so, you may have another option for internet and TV soon.
NOTE: This item was originally published in The Spirit of Plaza Midwood, Fall 2015.
There are two hypotheses that seem feasible to me:
(1) They never intended to provide broad fiber service. Instead, the project is just a ruse to scare the incumbent internet carriers to offer better service. Then their core services including bandwidth-intensive YouTube and apps, as well as their bread-and-butter search would be more responsive for everyone. If so, they have succeeded as both Spectrum and ATT have significantly upgraded their service and the latter is even installing some fiber of its own.
(2) Google miscalculated how complex and expensive building out fiber in a dozen or more cities would be. They flat dropped some of the “second tier” locations and imposed a serious go slow on the others.
In fact, they have not abandoned Charlotte, but are still adding new customers. It appears those new customers are primarily in the gazillions of new apartments going up in millennial-friendly neighborhoods. Those are obviously less expensive to serve where they can get dozens to hundreds of new customers with a single installation. The buildings are likely even prewired so they only have to service the master utility connection.
The writer has no affiliation with any of the businesses mentioned. Google did not respond to a request for specific details. All information presented is from public resources.
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