Almost a year ago, Google boasted it was going to pick one lucky city in which to build a fiber-optic network that would show traditional cable and telco operators how networks should be done. After garnering big headlines and having municipal leaders from all over the country swooning at the prospect, the news almost was forgotten.

Yesterday, Google finally announced the chosen location for its project: Kansas City, Kan. (KCK). "The response was overwhelming – nearly 1,100 cities felt the need for speed," said Google’s announcement.

Even though Kansas City, Mo. is the business center of that particular metro area, Google signed the development agreement with KCK based partly on the fact it’s considered to be an underserved area.

"In selecting a city, our goal was to find a location where we could build efficiently, make an impact on the community and develop relationships with local government and community organizations,” Google’s announcement continued. “We’ll be working closely with local organizations, including the Kauffman Foundation, KCNext and the University of Kansas Medical Center, to help develop the gigabit applications of the future."

Competition?

As far as existing providers in the area are concerned, the National Broadband Map indicates the wired broadband providers near the University of Kansas Medical Center are Time Warner Cable and AT&T. For wireless broadband, the map shows Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, Leap and Sprint. It’s possible Google’s new network also may overlap with Knology’s footprint; its service map includes territory in Wyandotte County, Kan.

Ron Rogers, director of corporate communications at SureWest Communications, which provides triple-play services in the Kansas City area, told CT Reports in an email, "We do not yet know all of the details of where they plan to serve in the greater Kansas City region, but do know that the areas they’ve publicly announced such as Wyandotte County are areas we do not currently serve or have plans to.”? ?He adds, "In many ways, this announcement is an exciting one for SureWest because it strengthens and validates that our strategy of operating as a fiber-to-the-home over builder is the best way to go. With our expertise and experience in building fiber-to-the-home networks over the last 10 years, we are also open to partnering with Google if opportunities present themselves."

Internet Speed

Google says its new fiber-optic network will provide Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have today, based on an assumption that most Americans can get 10 Mbps.

The fastest speeds in the United States today are around 100 Mbps for any type of common deployment. EPB, the municipal utility in Chattanooga, Tenn., has bragging rights with its 1 Gbps service (For more, see Chattanooga Leads The Charge For Fast Internet).

Jim Farmer, chief system architect at Enablence Networks, penned a piece for CT last July Reality Check: Does 1 Gbps Make Sense?

According to Farmer, there’s a tipping point at which people find uses for higher Internet speeds. "This happens when maybe 30 percent of the Internet-connected population has access to higher speeds," says Farmer. "Last time the cable people beat the phone people to the higher-speed punch because they had the more capable network. While cable is still wringing more speed out of DOCSIS, this time telco and new entrants (e.g., Google) are driving."

Pending approval from KCK’s Board of Commissioners, Google plans to offer service beginning in 2012.

-Linda Hardesty

The Daily

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