Network Infrastructure

2013 Marks Google Fiber's First Birthday: But Despite All the Attention, the Company Is and Will Remain a Broadband Baby

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  December 26, 2013

Last month marked Google (News - Alert) Fiber’s one-year anniversary in Kansas City. That means it had been a year since the first customers began receiving the 1-gig connectivity. By the time this issue makes it to press, most if not all of the areas targeted for Google Fiber will have been installed.

Meanwhile, Google Fiber installations have begun in Provo, Utah, where the company opened up sign ups to several thousand Provo residents in early October.

“City officials promised that Fiber would come to Provo by the end of 2013, and it looks like they’ve made good on their promise,” boasted an Android (News - Alert) Community blog dated Nov. 13.

The company expects to expand the sign-up process to others in Provo in January, according to a posting by Mike Kretschmer, customer solutions specialist at Google Fiber. This process in Provo is different and faster than the process used for Austin and Kansas City given that the Google network in this city is not a greenfield build.

“In KC and Austin, we need to install thousands of miles of brand new fiber-optic cables, which requires many months of planning, engineering and construction before we can open sign-ups and bring service to customers,” said Michael Slinger, Google’s director of fiber business operations. “Here in Provo, we purchased the iProvo network from the City of Provo, so a lot of this network already exists — we just needed to upgrade it to make it faster. Veracity customers get the first crack at signing up for Fiber service — they’re already hooked up to our newly-upgraded fiber because they’ve been connected to the former iProvo network, so it will be efficient and quick to install Google Fiber for any of them who want to switch providers.”

According to DSL Reports, Comcast responded to Google Fiber’s $70 1gbps offering in Provo by offering residents the Digital Premier channel bundle, 105mbps service, and either Xfinity Voice or Xfinity Home Secure for $120 a month for three years.

The third city to which Google intends to bring gigabit-speed fiber networks is Austin, Texas. According to a Venture Beat article posted in October, Google has indicated it won’t launch Google Fiber there until mid-2014, and it hadn’t decided which areas would be targeted for the high-speed connectivity.

That apparently left an opening for AT&T (News - Alert) to get first-mover advantage in Austin. AT&T expected to launch a service called GigaPower Internet Dec. 1 in Austin. Venture Beat went on to say that despite the name, AT&T’s Austin service will provide just 300mbps of bandwidth – at least initially. AT&T will then be able to upgrade GigaPower subscribers to 1gbps next year.

“There are still plenty of unknowns, though,” according to Venture Beat. “Chief among these is the monthly price of GigaPower, which AT&T seems to be staying silent about for now. For comparison, AT&T’s Uverse broadband TV/Internet service costs $65 per month for the highest tier package of Internet (45mbps). If you want to add television to that plan, you’re looking at another $60 - $120 per month. (By contrast, the Google Fiber service in Kansas City is just $120 per month for both Internet and TV.)”

The Verge reported that AT&T apparently received the same concessions as Google to build out its fiber-to-the-home network.

“Specifically, AT&T is allowed to pick and choose where it'll build out its gigabit Internet service,” according to The Verge. “The company is letting neighborhoods voice their interest in the service to ‘help influence future deployment’ — just as Google has done in Kansas City and elsewhere. This does mean that less wealthy neighborhoods are unlikely to see fiber service.”

In addition to AT&T, regional and local Internet service providers in Minnesota, Nebraska, Seattle and Vermont have responded to Google Fiber by announcing their own gigabit services, according to The Motley Fool.

Creating this disruption has made Google Fiber one of the most important developments of 2013, said Craig Clausen, executive vice president and principal analyst at New Paradigm Resources Group Inc.

“With its fiber network launch in a number of U.S. cities, Google is firing a shot across the collective bows of telecom and cable carriers and sending the clear signal that ‘if you guys can’t construct the appropriate access networks needed by users to effectively access Google’s future services , then we (Google) will.’  If the message isn’t heard, Google will continue to ramp up the pressure by building in additional markets.”

However, research firm IHS (News - Alert) says Google is and will remain a minor player in the U.S. broadband market.

“While the deployment of Google Fiber to the cities may capture attention, the company’s plans are miniscule compared to what its competitors undertake in the overall market,” said Dexter Thillien, senior analyst for multiplay at IHS. “AT&T and Verizon (News - Alert) have spent many billions of dollars establishing fiber networks in larger population centers, something Google is unlikely to be able to match.”

Edited by Cassandra Tucker