Google has officially become a service provider with the launch of Google Fiber, which will provide 1Gbps Internet access and a TV service.
"Google Fiber is 100 times faster than today's average broadband. No more buffering. No more loading. No more waiting. Gigabit speeds will get rid of these pesky, archaic problems and open up new opportunities for the web," Google said in a blog post.
Initially, Google Fiber will only be available in the US, rolling out to parts of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area - which straddles two states, Kansas and Missouri - after enough people in given neighborhoods sign up for the service.
Google today encouraged residents in those areas to pre-register and get their neighbours to sign up, too. Pre-registration is $10 (about £6.40) and is open until 9 September, at which point Google will see how many people have signed up and decide exactly where Google Fiber will roll out. Neighbourhoods need between five and 25 per cent of homes to sign on in order for it to be cost effective, Google said.
Google expects to have fiber connections built to the top 50 per cent of the "fiberhoods" by mid-2013. After 9 September, the company will publish a calendar with an estimated construction order and look to roll out to other American states thereafter.
Is Google Fiber likely to come to Blighty any time soon? Maybe, and maybe not. Kansas City looks like a good testing ground given its manageable size, and fans of high-speed broadband from all corners of the globe will no doubt be rooting for the Midwestern barbecue hub.
But until a megatropolis like New York is on the receiving end of the network, it seems unlikely a London rollout would be considered, with most other UK cities probably too small to be of commercial interest to Google until it's Fiber programme is a proven entity and scalability is established. Having said that, it doesn't mean Brits shouldn't clamour at the Internet giant, as incumbent UK broadband providers like Virgin Media and BT are still trying to master 300Mbps FTTC connections.
Google is offering three service packages.
The web-only Gigabit Internet plan is $70 per month (about £45) and includes a network box with advanced Wi-Fi and 1TB of cloud storage. The selection includes a one-year service agreement, though you can waive that by paying a $300 (£191) installation fee.
With the 'Gigabit + TV' plan, Google promises hundreds of channels and on-demand shows, as well as 2TB of DVR storage and eight tuners. Subscribers will get a new Nexus 7 tablet, which will serve as a remote control. The package will cost $120 per month (roughly £75) and include a two-year contract unless you pay the more expensive $300 set-up fee.
A list of available TV channels is on the Google Fiber website and includes premium channels like MTV, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central, which are also available on UK cable and satellite telly plans.
"This channel line-up is only a representative line-up and is subject to change," Google said in the fine print.
Google is also offering free Internet service to those who pay the $300 construction fee. Subscribers will get 5Mbps Internet access at no monthly cost, though they can spread the $300 fee out over 12 months. Google promised that the free Internet option will be available for at least seven years.
None of the plans include data caps, Google said.
What if you have a service issue? Google said its customer support line will be open for 15 hours on weekdays and eight hours on weekends. The company also has established a 'Fiber Space' in Kansas City, Missouri, where customers can speak with a Google Fiber team member, but it's unclear if Google Fiber technicians would be on call like most cable providers.
Google first announced that it would develop ultra high-speed broadband networks back in 2010. At the time, it promised fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connections that are "100 times faster than what most have access to today." By March 2011, Google selected Kansas City for its first network, and earlier this year there were rumours that the search giant would also be offering TV service.
In a statement, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski championed Google Fiber.
"Abundance in broadband speeds and capacity – moving from megabits to gigabits – will unleash breakthrough innovations in health care, education, business services, and more," he said.
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