Spurred by what it described as overwhelming consumer enthusiasm, Google on Jan. 27 said it would soon begin rolling out its Google Fiber gigabit Internet service in 18 cities across four major metro areas in the country.
The company is currently working with city planners in the Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville; and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. metro areas on planning and designing the network and on getting communities ready for Google Fiber. Google has apparently completed its initial exploratory phase in each of the cities and is ready to move forward.
The next step will be to work with each of the cities on creating a detailed map of where Google will install the thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable it will take to deliver the high-speed service, Dennis Kish, vice president of Google Fiber, said in a blog post, that Google will use both underground conduits and existing utility poles to lay the cables, and the company needs to work with city surveyors and engineers on doing it right.
The network design phase is expected to last a few months after which Google will start the actual construction work. There's no word yet on when consumers and small businesses—the two primary targets of Google's Fiber network—will be able to start signing up for the new service.
Google is currently also exploring delivering the service in Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City; San Antonio, Texas; and San Jose, Calif., Kish said, adding that the company will update those plans later this year.
The Jan. 27 announcement substantially increases the number of communities to which Google will deliver Fiber, a service that it touts as offering up to 100 times faster Internet speeds than standard broadband. Google already offers the service in and Provo, Utah, and Kansas City, and started signing up customers in the Austin area last month. The company currently charges subscribers $60 to $70 for gigabit Internet services and between $120 and $130 when combined with a TV service.
Google Fiber represents a major investment for the Internet giant. When Google first announced plans to build and test ultra-high-speed broadband networks five years ago, the company described it as an effort to deliver a competitively priced service that would deliver 1G-bps fiber-to-the-home Internet connections. The company has said the service will let developers create new bandwidth-intensive services, help spur economic growth and give consumers more choice.
Currently, more than 86 million U.S. households, or about 70 percent of the total, have some form of broadband service. By 2017, about 75 percent of all U.S. households will have broadband access, with cable being the main form of access, followed by DSL. However, the access speeds delivered by these services are well below the 1G-bps speeds promised by fiber-to-the-premise services, such as those being pushed by Google.
In fact, concerns over the relatively low broadband access speeds in the United States prompted the Federal Communications Commission to set a minimum speed provision of 10Mbps for companies to be eligible to install and maintain broadband services in rural areas.
The Fiber to the Home Council Americas (FTTH) estimates that fiber services are currently available to roughly 23 million U.S. households, of which about 10.9 million are actually connected. Incumbent telecommunications carriers, such as AT&T and Verizon, have provided much of the early impetus. But growing competition from Google, cable multi system operators (MSOs), city government and rural electric cooperatives will accelerate deployment activity considerably in the next few years, according to the FTTH.
A survey by the FTTH last year showed that communities served by gigabit Internet services had GDPs that were about 1.1 percent higher than communities with no gigabit services.