Google announced today the launch of Google Fiber, the search and advertising giant’s first step to becoming an Internet service provider (ISP). Currently only available to customers in Kasas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri, Google Fiber offers 1 gigabit uploads and downloads for the relatively low cost of $70 per month.
To put Google Fiber’s 1 gigbit connection in context, the average U.S. broadband service tops out at about 5.8 megabits per second, making Google Fiber roughly 100 times faster than most Americans’ Internet speeds, according to Google.
“No more buffering. No more loading. No more waiting. Gigabit speeds will get rid of these pesky, archaic problems and open up new opportunities for the web,” writes Google Vice President Milo Medin, on the company blog. “Imagine: instantaneous sharing; truly global education; medical appointments with 3D imaging; even new industries that we haven’t even dreamed of, powered by a gig.”
Another offers includes gigabit Internet access plus the new Fiber TV for $120 per month. Google will also give Internet + TV subscribers a free Google Nexus 7 tablet, which will serve as the Fiber TV remote. Or, if you just want basic Internet, Google is offering 5Mbps download/1Mbps upload service for “free” — just pay the one-time $300 “construction fee,” which can be paid out over a year for $25 per month. After that, it’s free Internet for “at least” seven years.
Google Fiber, Fiber Internet + TV, and Free Internet customers will receive a free Google Network Box, which includes four gigabit ethernet ports and high-speed Wi-Fi. All customers will have the option to purchase a Chromebook for as little as about $300.
All of this sounds too good to be true, of course. And for most of us it is, since Google Fiber is, as mentioned, only available in Kansas City. Even for residents lucky enough to be in the Google Fiber operating zone, getting the service is a bit tricky. Medin explains:
We’ve divided Kansas City into small communities we call ‘fiberhoods.’ To get service, each fiberhood needs a critical mass of their residents to pre-register. The fiberhoods with the highest pre-registration percentage will get Google Fiber first. Households in Kansas City can pre-register for the next six weeks, and they can rally their neighbors to pre-register, too. Once the pre-registration period is over, residents of the qualified fiberhoods will be able to choose between three different packages (including TV).
At the moment, the only service close to Google Fiber in terms of speed is Verizon’s recently launched “Quantum FiOS” plan, which offers users 300Mbps downloads, and 65Mbps uploads. While the availablity of this service is much greater, so is its cost: $205 per month with a two-year contract, TV service and free tablet not included.
The launch of Google Fiber is a long time coming — and a necessary step for the U.S. Internet to take. According to Pando Networks (pdf), a consumer and enterprise file-sharing network, the U.S. currently ranks 26th in the world in terms of Internet connection speeds, well below South Korea, which is number one. Of course, South Korea’s Internet service is heavily subsidized by the government. But that’s precisely why we need private companies like Google to take the lead and pull the U.S. in to the future.
As Medin said, the faster our Internet access, the greater our ability to innovate and evolve our connected world.