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Google's next stage of internet pwnership: Fiber targeting 34 cities means they are a real ISP now

Google recently announced that they are looking at nine metropolitan areas to deploy their Google Fiber service; but what does it take to get Fiber in your city?

 

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 Image: CNET/Marguerite Reardon
 If Americans had to choose a Facebook status for their relationship with the Internet, it would most definitely read: "It's complicated."

The Internet provides unlimited access to almost all of the world's information, but Internet access typically comes through a major cable provider with a monopoly on a particular city; and those major Internet providers are not held in high regard. In fact, the American Customer Satisfaction Index shows that ISPs have the lowest satisfaction rating of any industry in the U.S, even lower than airlines and banks.

When Google revealed their Google Fiber gigabit Internet service, it seemed a welcome respite from the current Internet system; but it was still just a pipe dream for many Internet citizens. However, a recent announcement gives weight to the theory that Google is moving Fiber from a small-scale experiment to a legitimate ISP option for consumers.  

Google announced in a blog post Wednesday that it is officially exploring nine metropolitan areas which comprise 34 cities, as potential targets for Google Fiber. Google Fiber was launched as a pilot in Kansas City, Kansas in 2011 and they had already expanded to Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah. If any company has the resources to do battle with the hegemony of existing ISPs, it is Google.

Currently, these are just plans; but Google typically lays serious groundwork before making an announcement like this. Still, according to Milo Medin, vice president of Google Access Services, it might not work for every city.

"While we do want to bring Fiber to every one of these cities, it might not work out for everyone. But cities who go through this process with us will be more prepared for us or any provider who wants to build a fiber network," Medin wrote in a blog post.

Which begs the question: What does it take to get Google Fiber to come to my city?

Google mentioned a list of items that cities will need to check off in order to be further considered for Fiber. According to Google communications associate Jenna Wandres, it also has to do with the individual city's potential to use Google Fiber in a unique way.

"We chose these cities because they are led by people who have been working hard to bring faster Internet speeds and the latest technologies to their residents.  We believe these are communities who will do amazing things with a gig. And they are diverse -- not just geographically, but in the ways they’ll give us opportunities to learn about the wide range of challenges and obstacles that communities might face in trying to build a new fiber network."

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 Image: Google
 The nine major metro areas chosen by Google are Nashville, Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, San Antonio, Phoenix, San Jose, Salt Lake City, and Portland. According to Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Google approached them asking about their willingness to participate in an "investigative process."

Google's Medin mentioned some of the local issues Google will consider as they choose the final contenders.  

"We’re going to work on a detailed study of local factors that could affect construction, like topography (e.g., hills, flood zones), housing density and the condition of local infrastructure. Meanwhile, cities will complete a checklist of items that will help them get ready for a project of this scale and speed," Medin wrote in a blog post.  

Portland was one of the 1100 cities that applied for Google Fiber in 2010. Next week, they will join the other cities in meeting with Google to go over the checklist for facilitating Fiber. Mary Beth Henry, manager for the office for community technology in Portland, said that getting Google Fiber to come to the city is: "The most important thing I am working on right now."

Google has indicated they will pay the applicable city permit fees and Henry said that they are not trying to get special treatment from the city. Accurate CIS data is critical to Google and Portland is working on an inventory of their available assets to help with grease the wheels. According to Henry, having Fiber paves the way for innovation in the city.

"It basically represents the infrastructure of the future and is the foundation for economic development and excelling in education and healthcare," Henry said.

Kim McMillan, the corporate communications director for the city of Charlotte echoed this idea when she said:

"The most exciting part of this is unleashing the untapped potential of individuals, institutions and entrepreneurs to use broadband without limits. There is a tremendous creative community capability that exists when persons no longer have to be concerned about broadband availability, metering, or limits. Charlotte views this opportunity as an economic development tool."

Google Fiber is the perfect storm of disruptive technology and it makes absolute sense as a business move. Internet service that is up to 100 times faster for a comparable price is not something that customers can ignore.

Google is in the business of keeping people online, and keeping people online keeps them in front of ads. Mayor Kleinschmidt, who sees Fiber as a way to complement existing innovation and enhance business opportunities, is excited about the potential ISP marketplace competition that Google Fiber could bring to Chapel Hill.

"It's hard to imagine a better opportunity for a consumer, a business, or a university," Kleinschmidt said.

As Google Fiber grows, it will obviously disrupt the ISP industry as it potentially draws customers away from giants like Comcast, AT&T, and Time Warner. But, Google may not be ready to pick a fight. Austin summed it up:

"Neither side is ready to go to war."

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About

Conner Forrest is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. He covers Google and startups and is passionate about the convergence of technology and culture.

22 comments
Squid Burns
Squid Burns

My city voted for it, but it will be a long while until we get it because they are working non stop installing the original city Kansas City. My friends have it and I have seen it and it's amazing. When they say $70 a month it's $70 a month plus only the taxes required by law. The DVR is great, they give you a little android tablet as a second remote control and second screen. Installers are great I see them all over town all say long. It's great. Unfortunately a lobbyist John Federicon introduced Kansas Bill SB 304 which would prohibit (virtually every) municipality from providing its residents with broadband, video, etc. The meeting about it got snowed out and it's up for talks in April now. John Federicon also works with Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and another corporate broadband/cable provider. Oh politics....

Vaughn Dumas
Vaughn Dumas

Here in Canberra, Australia we have fibre to the premises preinstalled when you buy a house.

Martin Ateh Atayo
Martin Ateh Atayo

Google can not, and must not, ignore Washington DC as one of its selected fiber nerve centers in the nation.To ignore the District of Columbia serving Washington DC metropolis will be a terrible mistake!!

Charles Hayes
Charles Hayes

How about putting it in rural locations, where the only choice now is freaking HughesNet?

marcellus.brown
marcellus.brown

How has Google selected the cities?

Is it by population or customer satisfaction with suppliers?

In the UK BT provides the backbone or Virgin Media. BT seems to be Fibre to the cabinet and copper to the house. I think Virgin is Fibre optic to a centre then coax to the house?

Is Google Fibre to a cabinet or into the house?

The UK market could be difficult as BT has the telephone network although can have third party suppliers in the exchanges and Virgin Media has separate distribution to houses in cities.

adornoe
adornoe

It's amazing how many people see Google as the good guy riding in on a white horse to save the day.


Competition is good, but, once established, Google will be just "one of the guys".  The "do no evil" guys of 10 years ago are no longer perceived the same way after their violations of privacy and the gathering of people's data to enrich themselves, and after cooperating with the NSA with gathering of communications records in violation of the 4th amendment of the constitution.


Google might be introducing competition in some areas where there is no competition, but, where I live, I doubt that they can beat the prices that are being offered by Verizon and even Bright House.


I get Verizon services for about $89 per month, and that's for internet access and for cable TV and wired phone service combined.  I added a few other services, which brings my bill up to $109 per month.  Google is supposedly offering service for $70 per month in Kansas city, but, that sounds like its for internet broadband only, which is pricey in comparison to what I get.  My Verizon internet broadband is for 25MG upload, and 50MG download, which is more than enough for most users anywhere, including even Seoul or Hong Kong.  


The other problem I find with the report above, is that, Google is being credited with being the good guy in this issue, with their offering of broadband.  But, Google is also a content provider.  People accuse Verizon and Comcast with also delivering their own content, and many see that as a conflict of interest.  So, why isn't it a conflict of interest to have Google, one of the biggest content providers in the world, also becoming an ISP?  Fact is that, if the issue does come to Washington with Verizon and Comcast and others being accused of having conflicts of interest, then they'll be able to point fingers at Google, which has already doing just that for a while.  Sometimes, the "good guys" aren't so clean either, and Google hasn't been the "do no evil" corporation of 10 years ago.   
maj37
maj37

. . . what does it take to get Fiber in your city?

Well for me it would take moving to a city with more a lot than 3100 people in it. 

kszczytko
kszczytko

Hopefully as it expands it will create some competition for the existing ISPs and bring costs down.

carlsf
carlsf

Google please bring your Gogle Fiber to Napier NZ.

teslaman84
teslaman84

Sure, get your internet directly from the NSA. At least ISPs are somewhat of a buffer. Enjoy the inevitable censorship too. No thanks, I'll pass. Although frankly, I don't know which will be worse, Google internet, or now being under the expanding umbrella of Comcast.

DAS01
DAS01

"...but Internet access typically comes through a major cable provider with a monopoly on a particular city;"

Living in the UK I am a bit puzzled by this.  Most of us here get our internet down a telephone line via ADSL.   Yes, the fixed-line phone infrastructure is being upgraded to fibre, but we are not *dependent* on cable operators.


Is there no ADSL down the phone line (which could still be copper wire)?

AvidNetizen
AvidNetizen

Google Fiber is excellent. As it expands into new markets I wonder how the current ISPs will respond.

DeeJay33
DeeJay33

@DAS01  I can't speak for the entire country, but in my area of California, ADSL speeds just are not on the same level as our cable provider.  I have the basic speed cable and get roughly 25MB-30MB down and 5MB up.  The upper cable service level gets around 50MB down.  Even the Elite package from ATT (DSL Provider) only hits 6MB down.  They do also have their U-Verse product (which I think is not DSL technology) but it only hits 22MB down at it's top end.


So if you need speed (and who doesn't with everyone in the house steaming Netflix, Pandora or kids gaming) cable is the way to go.  I tried ATT years ago and we were in buffer hell trying to share a 3MB download speed.

petersk
petersk

You make me laugh. Do you think the ADSL just magically appears in your home. You have to contract with the likes of BT or Virgin to get the service. So that makes you "dependent" on a provider, even if they don't provide TV services.

radleym
radleym

@DeeJay33 @DAS01 Are you sure you aren't talking about Mb (megabits) and not MB (megabytes)? megabytes roughly correspond to text characters. Divide your figures by 10 to get approximate megabyte (MB) figures.

Velocitydreamer
Velocitydreamer

@radleym  He obviously meant Mb(ps) as that is the standard, no one measures bandwidth in MB, unless the connection is running parallel and not serial, which wouldn't be the case for internet services.  Many people make the mistake of capitalizing the B... but if he used MB purposefully, then I'd love to hear why.  On a sidenote, he would divide by 8.  1 Byte = 8 bits  :)