Google Fiber Makes It Official: Austin Getting Fiber Service

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-04-10

Google Fiber Makes It Official: Austin Getting Fiber Service

Google has officially announced that the tech-friendly, progressive city of Austin, Texas, is the second U.S. city that will get the company's superfast Gigabit Internet service starting in 2014.

Last week, Google and the city of Austin sent out notices about a joint announcement that would come on April 9, leading to reports and speculation that the city would get Fiber service. At the time, though, Google declined to comment on the reports. Now, the company has unveiled its plans in an April 9 post on the Google Fiber blog.

"Today, we're pleased to announce with Mayor Lee Leffingwell that Austin, Texas, is becoming a Google Fiber city," wrote Milo Medin, vice president of Google Fiber, in his post. "It's a mecca for creativity and entrepreneurialism, with thriving artistic and tech communities, as well as the University of Texas and its new medical research hospital. We're sure these folks will do amazing things with gigabit access, and we feel very privileged to have been welcomed to their community."

Google's first Fiber deployment in the United States has been going on in Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., where the company has been unveiling Google Fiber since the fall of 2012 in the first deployments of a system that the company hopes will go national in the future. Last December, Google announced that five more neighborhoods in Kansas City would be getting its fiber services. Installation of the fiber network in the Kansas City area began in February 2012, when the laying of fiber cable got under way.

The timeline in Austin calls for Google to start connecting homes there by mid-2014, according to Medin's post. "Customers there will have a similar choice of products as our customers in Kansas City: Gigabit Internet or Gigabit Internet plus our Google Fiber TV service with nearly 200 HD TV channels," he wrote. "We're still working out pricing details, but we expect them to be roughly similar to Kansas City. Also, as in Kansas City, we're going to offer customers a free Internet connection at 5 [megabits per second] for 7 years, provided they pay a one-time construction fee."

Google also plans to connect many public institutions to the system as it is built in Austin, including schools, hospitals, community centers and more at no charge, he wrote.

"Communities that are connected to the Internet grow stronger because there's greater potential to create jobs, drive economic growth and help businesses succeed," wrote Medin. "We believe the Internet's next chapter will be built on gigabit speeds, and we hope this new Google Fiber city will inspire communities across America to think about what ultra-fast connectivity could mean for them."

Leffingwell, Austin's mayor, said in a statement that his city has been interested in getting Fiber service since Google began accepting applicants back in 2011. "Three years ago, the city of Austin expressed a desire to have Google's revolutionary fiber-optic communication infrastructure in Austin," he said. "We are a city of early adopters and entrepreneurs, and as such, offer the perfect environment for Google Fiber."

Google Fiber Makes It Official: Austin Getting Fiber Service

In his post, Google's Medin even encouraged leaders in other communities across the country to begin to research and take steps toward bringing Gigabit Internet access to their communities in the future.

That, of course, begs the question—now that Google chose Austin as its second deployment target, where will Google think about bringing Fiber next?

Rob Enderle, principal analyst with Enderle Group, told eWEEK that while the Austin selection makes sense today because it has a lot of technology activity and is a "mini Silicon Valley," several other cities around the nation would make good selections for Google in the future.

One such place would be Silicon Valley because of all the high-tech work being done there, as well as possibilities such as Boston, said Enderle. "Boston would make a certain amount of sense, and then Google has a fairly significant presence in New York City. They've got a big office hub there, so putting something close to that hub would be relatively inexpensive for them."

In North Carolina, cities like Charlotte or Raleigh could be good choices, too, he said.

But the No. 1 spot named by Enderle is Hollywood.

"They have a huge technical requirement for bandwidth in Hollywood because of the movie industry," said Enderle. "And Hollywood would give Google potential contact with the movie studios and stars, and that tends to be a draw with geeky folks. If we're not thinking strategically, but we're thinking about where they'd want to go next, I think Hollywood floats to the top of the list."

When Google chose Kansas City for the initial Fiber deployment, the geographical choice was likely made because it was out of the way and wouldn't have a huge negative impact if things hadn't gone smoothly, said Enderle. "The fact that they picked Austin next indicates that they're increasing their risk and exposure."

Early results from the Kansas City rollout have been promising for Google Fiber based on Internet speed ratings reported by Netflix each month, said Enderle. Based on the small but growing deployment Google Fiber has in Kansas City today, the service is ranked No. 1 for Internet speeds across the nation, compared with competitors, according to the Netflix numbers. Google Fiber is listed at 3.45M bps average speed, compared with 2.39M bps for its nearest rival, Cablevision Optimum.

Another analyst, Dan Olds, principal of Gabriel Consulting Group, told eWEEK he thinks Portland, Ore., could be a perfect next target for Google Fiber because the city already has a large installed chunk of a fiber network that could be taken over.

"I would look for smaller midsized cities that would be easier to deal with on a one-on-one basis," such as Boulder, Colo.; Seattle; Sacramento, Calif.; or maybe Research Triangle Park, N.C., said Olds. "Can you imagine trying to do something like this in New York City, all the palms you'd have to grease? Plus, it would be astounding to try to actually physically install fiber in New York City" because it is so built-up.

Interestingly, Olds noted that Comcast Xfinity has been busy announcing speed increases around the nation for its existing cable Internet customers. "Maybe that's to play a little defense" against Google Fiber's higher speeds, he said.

Another IT analyst, Roger Kay, principal of Endpoint Technologies Associates, told eWEEK that the Austin choice could be a sign of things to come for cities such as Cambridge, Mass., but more likely for places such as Portland, Ore.; Madison, Wis.; and even "surprises like someplace in upstate New York; Atlanta; San Diego; Boise, Idaho; and Fargo, N.D."

In January, rumors were flying that New York City would get its own Google Fiber installation, but the rumors turned out to be quite wrong. Instead, the city was targeted for a free outdoor WiFi network in the southwest section of the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan, where Google has its New York headquarters. The system will encapsulate the first Google-served neighborhood in Manhattan and will be the largest contiguous WiFi network in New York City, according to Google.

Google did not respond to a request from eWEEK for further comment on the Austin announcement or about the potential locations of the company's next Fiber rollouts.

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