Thinking Tech

Google Fiber: the big gigabit reveal and what it means

Posting in Cities

Google has launched its gigabit service in Kansas City. Here's what Google Fiber promises to deliver.

Google today announced Google Fiber, a new gigabit fiber broadband service for Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. Critical details include:

  • The launch of a new Google Fiber TV service with massive storage for recorded programming, an integrated electronic program guide with advanced search functions, and a mobile remote control application for smartphones and tablets operating on iOS or Android
  • A new symmetrical gigabit Internet service that can be purchased alone ($70 per month) or with Google Fiber TV ($120 per month)
  • Free Internet service with speeds of up to five megabits per second downstream and one megabit per second upstream for anyone who is willing to pay a one-time construction fee of $300 (can be paid in monthly installments of $25 per year)
  • Free gigabit Internet service to schools, libraries, emergency facilities and community centers whenever a neighborhood signs up enough people for residential Google Fiber service.

Google's gigabit fiber plans have been long in the making, and while Google has received a lot of press for its efforts, it should go without saying at this point that the Kansas City deployments are only the latest in a series of gigabit broadband initiatives in the United States. In fact, gigabit networks are decidedly in fashion if you consider community deployments like Chattanooga and Lafayette, and the formation of new organizations like Gig.U and U.S. Ignite.

It's also important to note that there are still open questions about Google's gigabit infrastructure. Most critically, it's not clear if Google is planning to open up access to its high-speed network so that other organizations can build services on top of it. Many experts believe an open-access model is critical for broadband development, but Google may have decided it has its hands full focusing on consumers in the Kansas City testbed. There was no mention of open access during Google's launch event today.

There are a lot of factors that will determine the success or failure of Google's gigabit efforts, along with the related success or failure of other gigabit projects. However, it's encouraging to see progress in the form of continued experimentation. The more people who can get their hands on high-speed Internet access, the more innovative applications we'll start to see, and the faster we'll get a virtuous cycle going of gigabit networks inspiring applications inspiring more gigabit networks.

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Mari Silbey

Contributing Editor

Mari Silbey is an independent tech writer based in Washington, D.C. With a background in cable and telecom, she's a contributor to several trade publications, and part of the GigaOM analyst network. She also writes for the long-running digital media blog Zatz Not Funny, and has written for both corporate and association clients focused on broadband networks, mobile apps, and video delivery. She's a graduate of Duke University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure