Google is a noun, a verb and the maker of the world’s most popular smartphone operating systems. Soon it could be your Internet service provider, too.
The company recently announced the launch of a new fiber Internet service, Google Fiber, in Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan. As of mid-2013, Google expects to begin delivering Internet service 100 times faster than current average speeds to residents of the two cities.
Not only will Google Fiber be faster, it will also offer the opportunity to combine traditional television and Internet service. Customers who subscribe to both Google Fiber television and Internet service will be able to watch the package’s full assortment of television channels on their computers, smartphones and tablets, as well as Internet videos on their television Buy Google Reviews screens. While Google has so far only announced a “representative” channel lineup, that list currently includes Viacom channels such as MTV, BET, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, but excludes Disney-owned channels such as ESPN, the Disney Channel and ABC Family. Premium channels will be available for additional fees.
The combined package is priced at $120 a month, with the Internet-only option priced at $70 a month. Google will also offer current standard-speed Internet at no monthly charge, for at least seven years, to users who pay a one-time $300 fee to have their homes made fiber-ready.
Google plans to build the necessary fiber infrastructure only in neighborhoods where at least 5 percent to 25 percent of households sign up. Residents have until Sept. 9 to preregister and can track how many of their neighbors have signed up online. The neighborhoods with the most preregistered subscribers will be visited by construction crews first.
While only Kansas City residents will benefit immediately, the move is good news for everyone. The high cost of building infrastructure for cable or fiber Internet has long meant that the Internet service provider game was only open to established players. This has left customers with minimal choice and companies with minimal competition – and little reason to improve offerings or restrain costs. Google’s entry, even in a limited market, is a sign that new players can indeed emerge, often from unexpected directions.
The move also has important implication for “network neutrality,” the principle of preventing service providers from prioritizing certain kinds of Internet traffic over others. As users have increasingly turned to the Internet for access to video content, service providers, objecting to the bandwidth taken up by high volume users, pitted themselves against content providers. Meanwhile, as some service providers have acquired content of their own, fears have grown that service providers might prioritize their own content or block competing material.