I’ve written here before about Google’s experiment to provide truly high-speed, fiber-to-the-premises Internet access. The experiment, first announced back in February, 2010, selected the Kansas City metro area for the installation. Now, according to an article at the BBC News site, the first customers, in the Hanover Heights section of the city, are being connected. The early users of the service are reporting access speeds of ~700 Mbps (roughly 70 megabytes / second) in both directions, which is certainly considerably faster than the typical domestic connection. According to the article, the service seems to be reasonably priced.
The gigabit service is being offered at $70 (£44) per month with no installation charge. This package also comes with 1TB (terabyte) of storage on Google Drive.
Alternatively subscribers can opt for a broadband plus TV service at a price of $120 (£75).
As I’ve said before, I think this project is a test case for Google, to see how customers might make use of truly high-speed access, not the beginning of a wholesale entry into the ISP market. Nonetheless, the company does seem to be trying to avoid some of the problems that frequently drive people crazy with cable and telephone services. In a post on the Google Fiber Blog, Alana Karen, Director of Service Delivery, writes,
We’ve found that the difference between dreading an installation and feeling like you had a good experience comes down to us caring about the details that matter the most to you. For example, we’ll show up when we’re supposed to—at the start of your appointment, not somewhere in the middle. We’ll clean up any mess; each installer carries a vacuum cleaner. And we’ll answer your questions and teach you about your devices—don’t be afraid to ask us questions, or to ask us to explain something again in simpler language.
Considering the customer’s convenience — what a radical concept.
When the Google Fiber project was first announced, there was speculation that the installation might lead to the development of more technology businesses in the Kansas City area. According to an article at Ars Technica, some of that development is beginning to take place. A local Web designer, Ben Barreth, has set up a program called “Homes for Hackers“, which offers living space (rent-free for the first three months) in Google Fiber locations for budding entrepreneurs. Barreth has even bought a house in the initial installation area to help launch the program.
The program is part of a larger consortium called Kansas City Start-Up Village:
The KC Startup Village (#KCSV) is an entrepreneur-led, organic, grassroots initiative helping to bolster the Kansas City startup scene by creating a concentrated and collaborative community of startups. Our vision: to help solidify Kansas City as a premiere startup city in America.
The availability of Google Fiber has been a significant attraction; of course, three months’ free rent doesn’t hurt, either.
I am looking forward to seeing how this all works out.