Laying down the facts on Google Fiber

Google is entering the ISP space with their Fiber plans. Learn more about what it provides and how it works.

Having provided Internet services such as search, collaboration, and messaging for several years, Google is now offering fast Internet access/TV service in the form of Google Fiber. Described as "A different kind of Internet," Fiber is presently available only in Kansas City (both the Kansas and Missouri versions). However, Google Fiber is expanding to more Kansas locations as well as Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah (these latter cities having been picked just this month).

What does Google Fiber offer?

Fiber has a solid yet straightforward set of options:

  • 1Gb Internet speed
  • A Network box with integrated Wi-Fi Access Point
  • A TV box with 200 HD channels and Wi-Fi capability (802.11 a/b/g/n)
  • A Storage box which can hold 2TB of content and provides DVR capability (eight programs can be recorded at once) as well as the ability for multiple TVs to recorded shows
  • A Nexus 7 tablet which includes a Google Fiber app which allows you to "use your mobile device instead of a traditional remote control to control the content playing on any Google Fiber TV in your home. You can also play some types of Google Fiber content directly on your mobile device using the Google Fiber mobile app." This app is also available for Androids (Jelly Bean or later) and iPads running 6.0 or higher.
  • 1Tb of Google Drive space

How is Google Fiber oriented towards businesses?

At the moment Google Fiber dwells exclusively within the consumer realm. Fiber Terms of Service prohibit users from running servers (although multi-player games, conference, and other "server capabilities" are allowed).

Google states "We are currently focused on our Fiber-to-the-home network, which is for residential consumers. For businesses located in qualified fiberhoods, we plan to introduce a small business offering shortly - stay tuned to for more details." A Fiber plan for businesses would probably focus more on Internet/phone functionality and less on TV/DVR options. The business plan might also entail additional features involving bandwidth controls, remote access, uptime guarantees, and support packages.

On a related note, Google recently held a "Get Your Business Online" event offering free websites and domain name registration for small businesses. Although the event was oriented towards Kansas users, similar events in other locations are a possibility. Facilitating the growth of online business makes sense for Google in order to move into a position to provide Fiber business plans to customers.

How does Google set up their Fiber service for subscribers?

On their "Learn about your devices" page, Google states "first, we pull a fiber optic connection directly to your home and connect it to a Fiber Jack. Then, the Network Box takes the gigabit connection from the Fiber Jack and distributes the ultra-fast Internet inside your home... the Network Box has four gigabit Ethernet ports where you can plug in computers to get the highest speeds. It is equipped with great Wi-Fi, and although Wi-Fi is slower than a wired connection, we have built in an advanced Wi-Fi radio to allow you to get as much of the gigabit speeds as possible when you are not wired. Our firewall protects your home network from outside hackers but does not compromise on speed. You manage your network on the web, where you can control all your devices from a portal that is understandable by everyone. But you still have access to all the advanced configuration options, if you are a power user."

Google goes out of their way to make it clear that 1Gb Internet access speeds may not universally apply. They caution users that "you will not get the full 1Gig speed with wireless devices. In order to get the fastest possible network speeds, you must connect your computer or other device directly to the Network Box using an Ethernet cable." Other factors such as the age and configuration of the connected devices, Internet latency and the use of the TV video stream can impact Internet speed for attached devices.

Will Google snoop on my web access if I use Fiber?

The short answer: no more than any other ISP might.

The long answer: the Google Privacy Policy applies to Fiber, and this indicates that Google does collect information you give them, as well as information they get from your use of their services. There is also a Google Fiber Privacy Notice states that "We may also obtain and use information about our Fiber users from outside sources for marketing purposes (such as commercially available demographic, geographic, or interest information)."

The Fiber help page says "When you use Google products (like Gmail or Search) while connected to Google Fiber Internet, your information will be treated as usual... if you choose Google Fiber Internet as your service provider, information from Google Fiber Internet usage (like the URLs of non-Google websites visited or the content of emails sent using a non-Google email account) may be accessible to Google Fiber. This kind of Google Fiber Internet usage information won't be associated with your Google Account or accessed by Google unless we have your consent to do so or if an applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request requires us to do so."

How can I sign up?

I'll be the first to admit that, relatively speaking, Google Fiber is presently available to a very small group of people. As of April 2013, if you want Google Fiber you have to live in (or move to) one of the Kansas Cities, or wait for it to come to Austin or Provo if you reside there.

If you are one of the 600,000 people in the Kansas City areas, you can access Google Fiber's Cities page where you can enter your street address to check availability, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

You can also click "Get Started" next to any of the green locations to check the coverage map and see where Google Fiber is operating. For instance, Figure B shows availability in Kansas City, KS:

Figure B

Figure C shows where Fiber has been run in Kansas City, MO:

Figure C

Please note that if you live in an apartment Google requires you to get permission from your landlord or landlady to have Fiber installed.

What are the costs?

According to the Google Fiber help site, service plans and pricing are as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Note that "free Internet" option (with a $300 construction fee) - it's free for seven years! It will be interesting to see if this is extended to business users when Fiber can accommodate them. All plans require a Google Account in order to configure Google Fiber options.

Where can I find out more?

There is a Google Fiber page which contains many useful details. Google also has set up a Google+ account, Facebook page, and a Twitter feed devoted to Fiber. They also have a blog site for the latest announcements.

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Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.

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