Google Is Now America’s Most Awesome ISP

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Google Fiber
Image Courtesy Google

Kansas City is about half an hour from my house, taunting me with fast download speeds.

After a summer of waiting, Google finally emerged with details on their new Kansas City Fiber network. The price for Google Internet starts at free. That’s right, for the $300 installation fee, Google will give you free Internet at “today’s speeds” for at least 7 years. If you’re used to thinking of these speeds as fast, take a gander at this comparison and then imagine seven years of technology innovation.

For $70 a month, you get the gigabit Internet and a network box. That’s 100 times faster than what most of us are using right now.  This is probably what I’d pick, and it’s about what I’m paying for the speeds Google is now giving away for free. Did I mention that there’s no data cap for these plans? There’s also no cap on upload speeds.

For hesitant cord cutters, Google has the ultimate plan at $120 a month. That’s the gigabit Internet, two terabytes of local storage, a shiny new Nexus 7 tablet, and a TV box with a cable lineup. That’s right, Google is becoming your cable company. The lineup doesn’t include most of the local networks, but they’re probably within antenna reception range. I wonder if the TV box also acts as a DVR.

The current Google Fiber project is in Kansas City on both the Kansas and Missouri sides. It’s a residential service, not business, but Google is rolling the service out to schools and libraries within the coverage zone.  Google is hosting a mini competition for preregistration to decide where to install fiber first. “Fiberhoods” as Google calls it. You preregister for $10, and the areas with lots of preregistrations get the service. Neighborhoods without it are out of luck.  Google is also implying in their roll-out video that there are plans to expand this beyond Kansas City. I’m hoping they start with the suburbs.

This Saturday, Google is going to have an open house in their Fiber Space in Kansas City’s Westport neighborhood. I plan on scheduling a field trip to see it in action. That’s the only way anyone will see it in action until they get around to the installation portion, which won’t happen until September or later. It’s going to be interesting to watch.

Google has had some hiccups with customer service in handling physical products. How will the company do with a service like laying cable and dealing with technical difficulties? Will customers take to gigabit speeds like a duck to water, or will most people spend their time posting Facebook memes? Will the local cable companies decide that maybe they should preemptively upgrade their offerings and lower the prices?

I asked a Google representative last month whether the Google Fiber project was intended as a new business model for Google or as a gauntlet tossed down to spur competitors into building up fiber infrastructure. She said that either outcome would be looked upon favorably. I agree. Bring on the fiber.

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