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When Will the Rest of Us Get Google Fiber?

Google may choose to expand its service, but there’s little incentive for established players to come up to speed.

By David Talbot on February 4, 2013

Call it the miracle on Francis Street. Last year Ryan and Jenny Carpenter got a deal seemingly too good to be true in their Kansas City, Missouri, neighborhood: an installer from Google Fiber wired their bungalow to give them at least 50 times their previous Internet access speed and a substantially better TV service, all for only $125 a month, tax included—just a few dollars more than they’d been paying Time Warner Cable.

Ryan Carpenter still speaks in amazed tones of the December night when he simultaneously streamed four high-definition TV shows (two Christmas specials, an episode of The Office, and a Kansas University basketball game), recording three of them on the included two-terabyte DVR. That’s two more shows than he could previously watch at once, with plenty of capacity to spare. “It just blows my mind—we can be running video via Wi-Fi on two smartphones and on two laptops, and also be watching and recording TV shows all at the same time,” he says. “It’s a vastly superior service.” And that’s even without touching high-bandwidth Web apps that work seamlessly at superfast speeds, such as 3-D maps of cities that have imperceptible load times.

The question of how Google offered this value is a mystery to the couple—and to much of the rest of the nation. It’s not that the technology involved is groundbreaking; the fiber and connections are off-the-shelf technology. Yet Google’s supercharged service is priced at just $70 per month, or $120 with bundled television, plus tax (see “Google’s Internet Service Might Actually Bring the U.S. up to Speed”). For the TV service, Google struck content deals, including for some sports channels—though HBO is not yet part of the mix. And all of this comes with a Nexus 7 tablet remote and two terabytes of DVR storage plus another a terabyte of cloud storage. And a Google spokeswoman says the company “expects to operate profitably” and that Google Fiber is neither a loss leader nor a PR stunt.

If that’s true, then why isn’t it being made available everywhere? The answer is that there are no compelling business incentives for the established players, says Blair Levin, a former U.S. Federal Communications Commission chief of staff, who helped write the National Broadband Plan and is now executive director of Gig.U, a consortium of universities trying to deploy very fast networks in local neighborhoods.

Read more: When Will the Rest of Us Get Google Fiber? | MIT Technology Review.

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