After a long wait, Google finally moved towards rolling out their new high speed Internet service in Kansas City Missouri and Kansas with an announcement of pricing plans and preregistration. The service, Google Fiber, offers gigabit Internet speeds, or roughly 100 times as fast as most Americans currently expect from a "high speed" network.
Ok, here's the problem. In America, we think we've got high speed, but really we're not that fast. On top of being merely "above average" in Internet speeds, we're not rolling out new technologies that quickly to catch up. There's little government interest in setting up public networks, and private companies often have monopolies or near monopolies for different geographic regions. Google's business model relies on users getting more and faster Internet speeds, so slowing down is bad for business. Rather than waiting for a government or third-party to fix things, Google decided to start laying cable themselves.
Now, is this a project designed to be a new money maker for Google, or is it designed to spur competitors into rolling out their own high speed fiber networks? I asked Google this summer, and the answer is, "yes." Either outcome is a win for Google.
Google's basic, basic, basic plan starts at free. Well, almost free. For a $300 installation fee, which can be broken up into $12 monthly installments, Google will give you seven years of free Internet at the speeds we currently consider "high speed." Once your neighbors get gigabit Internet, yours will seem pretty slow, but I'm sure Google will let you upgrade later.
Internet only plans are $70 per month and include gigabit download speeds and an Internet box for receiving the signal. For those who want the whole kit and caboodle, Google has a bundle plan for $120. This plan includes TV service through a Google supplied TV Box a Nexus 7, a network attached storage device, and the network box for receiving the signal. Chromebooks are an optional add-on. Google warned that some channels may cost extra, which I guess gives them wiggle room if there are last minute cable network shenanigans with the pricing.
The current service will be residential, not business, although anecdotally there may already be some home business plans in the works. The fiber will go to neighborhoods with the highest density of preregistration first, and then lower density areas may not see fiber at all for a while. Preregistration also requires a $10 financial commitment, so there's less of a chance of forged interest. That's a common sense approach, but the roll-out video makes it seem like it's yet another competition. After two and a half years of competitions, residents may be a bit fatigued.
If you're not in Kansas City, you can still sign up to get alerts when Google Fiber is coming to your area, though there's no guarantee this will ever happen outside of Kansas City.
The interesting thing to watch on this roll-out is how well Google figures out customer service. This is something the company is already aware needs to be done right, but theory and practice are two different things. Google hasn't had a stellar record delivering physical goods to people in boxes in the mail or answering the phone when those things go awry, and now they're attempting to do something that requires visiting actual houses.