Google Fiber Launches in Kansas City

  • FTTH
  • Google Fiber
KANSAS CITY, MO and KANSAS CITY, KS - The long-awaited launch of Google Fiber took place today, when Google announced its pricing and service plans and invited residents of both Kansas Cities to preregister for service.

Although Google first conceived of the network as open access, at present it is the only service provider. Three plans are offered. The basic plan, 5 Mbps/1 Mbps Internet service - equivalent to the average speeds in the U.S. today - is available for no charge except a $300 connection fee, which can be paid in installments over the first year.

Symmetrical gigabit Internet service is available for $70 per month, with the connection fee waived. Naturally, there are no data caps. This price is equivalent to that offered by Sonic.Net, a small California ISP, but much lower than any any large-scale gigabit service in the U.S. For example, Chattanooga's gigabit Internet service costs about $350 per month.

The third service, a bundle consisting of gigabit Internet service and cable TV, is offered for $120 per month, with the connection fee waived. Google's potential entry into the video services market had been the subject of intense speculation. Some standard channels appear to be missing from the lineup, but Google's website suggests that the lineup is still a work in progress. The video service includes a Nexus 7 tablet as a controller, a set-top box, a storage box, a terabit of online storage, and more.

Will Google get the high take rate it needs to make the network profitable and allow it to serve as a test bed for new applications? The company appears to be using a combination of peer pressure and aggressive pricing to drive sales. Here's the peer pressure tactic: Neighborhoods will be connected based on the number of preregistrations Google receives by September 9; neighborhoods without enough preregistrations (the exact number is not revealed) will not get Google Fiber at all. This tactic is likely to succeed in middle-class neighborhoods, where residents who are tied to contracts with other providers might agree, just to keep peace with their neighbors, to pay $25 per month for the connection fee and 5 Mbps service and then upgrade to gigabit service when their existing contracts expire.

However, the prospect of entire low-income neighborhoods being excluded from the benefits of Google Fiber because not enough people can afford connections of any kind is worrisome - and seems contrary to the stated goals of the project. Google has also refused to allow a nonprofit organization to sell wireless connectivity based on Google Fiber in low-income neighborhoods. Google has been working closely with the city governments, and it's hard to imagine that this issue hasn't been raised, but how it will be resolved remains to be seen.

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