This week, Google Fiber announced a signup list for 1-gigabit-per-second fiber-to-the-home internet connections in the South and Southeast areas of Austin, TX, offering internet to individuals and businesses that is at least 100 times faster than non-fiber internet.
Residents of Bluebonnet, Lady Bird Lake, Emerald Forest, Ben White, and Onion Creek neighborhoods (or “fiberhoods” in Google’s parlance) can sign up for Google Fiber. This is somewhat later than Google’s original 2013 prediction that it would be starting connecting Austin homes with fiber by mid-2014. Google said it plans to bring fiber connectivity to other areas of Austin in the future.
Google has already made Google Fiber available in certain areas of Kansas City, Mo., and is currently constructing fiber connections in Provo, Utah. It has also entered into discussions to bring fiber to 34 cities in 9 metro areas around the US.
Customers will be able to choose between different options including Gigabit Internet for $70 per month and Gigabit Internet plus Google Fiber TV for $130 (which is $10 more than the same service in Kansas City).
Small businesses who are early adopters can also sign up for gigabit speeds for $100 per month under its Google Fiber for Small Business program.
There is also a free “Basic” tier which features 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speed but requires a one-time $300 construction fee or $25/mo for 12 months.
Google’s telecom service roll-out has been driven by demand, which is a different approach than traditional telecom providers which have been essentially given a monopoly over communication services under the condition that they serve all localities. This has spurred fears that certain neighborhoods or areas could be left without adequate services.
However, since regulations around internet services are looser than with landline phone service, there has been some competition among other U.S. telecoms to provide faster internet access to different regions. Earlier this year, for instance, AT&T said it intends to bring its fiber-to-the-home internet service to 21 metropolitan areas.
This “last-mile”, or last leg of the journey data makes to a house is crucially important to the growth of higher-bandwidth applications like streaming games and video. For instance, Netflix recommends a minimum speed of 3 Mbps for SD quality video, 5 Mbps for HD, and 20 Mbps for Ultra HD 4K.
New online services will undoubtedly require high-speed connections to provide an adequate user experience, therefore the roll-out of fiber could have huge implications on the potential of internet services, and who is able to use them.