It has taken 16 months but Google has announced that from September residents of Kansas City can sign up for one gigabit Internet and cable television service via ‘Google Fiber.’
And rather than deciding on its own which neighbourhoods will get the first service, Google is asking residents to gather their neighbours together to “lobby” for the first hook-ups through a sign-up competition that will last through 9 September, according to a 26 July blog post on the Google Fiber blog.
The neighbourhoods with higher numbers of pre-registrations will be the first ones to get the services, according to the blog post from Kevin Lo, the general manager of Google Access.
The Kansas City area was chosen more than two years ago by Google as the place to start their Google Fiber efforts after the company publicly asked communities across the nation whether they’d want to be the test site for the project. “More than 1,100 cities raised their hands, and those of you in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri won us over with your enthusiasm for better, faster web connections,” wrote Lo.
As part of the program, Google says it will also connect community buildings like schools, libraries and hospitals with free Gigabit Internet if the “fiberhoods” reach their pre-registration goals. “The first homes will get service shortly after the rally ends, and all qualifying neighbourhoods will receive service before the end of 2013.”
Installation of the fibre network in the area began in February, when the laying of fibre cable got underway.
The impact of the first Google Fiber effort will be carefully watched and will likely make waves across the nation if the company is successful with this first deployment, said Jeff Kagan, an independent telecom analyst.
Matched with the rumoured launch of Apple’s iTV at the end of the year, the move into the cable market by both companies “could transform the business,” said Kagan.
Just how could Google Fiber make a difference in the marketplace?
What the company’s entry into the market will bring, said Kagan, is true competition through price cuts from traditional cable companies that will be terrified of Google’s potential success. Consumers want lower prices to combat what has been a doubling of cable TV prices every 10 years, he said.
“It has been falling on deaf ears with the cables companies until competitors started coming in,” said Kagan. “If Verizon and AT&T were the only competitors, I’m afraid that wouldn’t be enough to change things. Now that Google is making waves this is where the cable TV industry is either going to be fixed or stay broken.”
Both Google and Apple caused similar large impacts when they moved into the wireless marketplace, where neither had previous experience before taking that leap.
“Now they are one and two in that market,” said Kagan. “They could do the same thing with television. And if they do, it’s going to throw Comcast and Cox and other cable providers into a whirlwind, a death spiral, as their customers leave. This is what we could see in the next few years.”
This potential scenario is probably the only thing that will truly lower prices for consumers, said Kagan. “If and when [Google] gets this right, it’s going to send quakes of terror through the cable TV industry.”
Pricing for Google Fiber in Kansas City starts at $70 (£45) per month for 1 gigabit Internet access alone, up to $120 (£76) per month for 1 gigabit Internet access as well as Google Fiber TV. The Google TV package also includes a Nexus 7 tablet that can be used as a remote control. 1GB of cloud storage is also included in both packages.
Residents who pre-register for the service by 9 September will also be eligible for free Internet access at a lower speed under the sign-up program, according to Google. Pre-registrants whose neighbourhoods are selected for fibre hook-ups will be able to get a free 5 megabit per second (Mbps) connection free of monthly charges, though they will have to pay a $300 (£191) installation free. That charge can be paid at once or in $25 (£16) monthly instalments.
So what’s under the hood in the fibre network itself? The fibre cables themselves are composed of thin glass fibres, each about the width of a human hair. Woven together as part of a big broadband fibre mesh, the cable network will facilitate data at speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have today, according to Google.
Google wants to test this speedy broadband network as a template for supporting gaming applications and other graphically intensive programs. Google’s own YouTube video-sharing service would benefit greatly from speedier data facilitation, generating more video views and more ads served.
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