In a broadband first, Google announced on its blog that it has connected a Starbucks store in Kansas City directly to Google Fiber, the high-powered Internet service that the web services giant is rolling out in select cities across the country.
According to Google, the coffee shop at the corner of 41st and Main Street now offers "the fastest Starbucks WiFi in the US."
Google Fiber Inc. is typically associated with 1Gbit/s Internet speeds, but even with the fiber connection, Starbucks WiFi users won't get a gigabit Internet service: Current constraints don't make speeds that fast practical over a standard wireless network. Starbucks, however, is also providing new community tables at the Kansas City location with freely available Chromebook computers. While Google still isn't promising gigabit speeds for those machines, the Chromebooks are wired directly in to the Google Fiber link, which should mean faster broadband connections.
The Kansas City announcement comes more than a year after Google officially teamed up with Starbucks and promised to improve wireless connectivity in all of the coffee chain's locations. Back then, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) said it would increase WiFi speeds up to tenfold in most stores across the US, and was "hoping" to provide a connection "up to 100x faster" in Google Fiber cities. (See Is Google the New WiFi of Coffee Snobs?)
Ironically (or perhaps not), the Starbucks announcement also comes right on the heels of news that Google has backed out of its plans to extend Google Fiber to the Kansas City suburb of Leawood. Perhaps trying to balance bad news with good, Google is showing progress with the main-street Starbucks deployment even while it's dialing back on its suburban fiber rollout. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is stepping in where Google has left off and has said it will target Leawood with its own GigaPower broadband service. (See AT&T to Fill Google's Gigabit Void in Kansas.)
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading