Google Fiber Shifts Into High Gear

Google unit explores expanding its 1Gbit/s service to nine major US markets, extending its reach nationwide.

Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

February 19, 2014

4 Min Read
Google Fiber Shifts Into High Gear

Showing that it's much more than a mere science experiment, Google Fiber aims to bring its trademark 1Gbit/s broadband service to up to nine more US markets, including some of the biggest and fastest-growing areas in the nation.

Google Fiber Inc. , which is operating in the Kansas City and Provo, Utah, areas and plans to expand to Austin, Texas, by the summer, spelled out its plans Wednesday. In a blog post on its website, the company said it's weighing 1 Gbit/s launches in some promising markets: Atlanta; San Jose, Calif.; San Antonio; Phoenix; Salt Lake City; Charlotte, N.C.; Portland, Ore.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Raleigh/Durham, N.C. (See Google Fiber Proceeds in Provo.)

In all, Google Fiber is targeting 34 cities in the nine metro markets. The Google unit said it plans to decide where to build its FTTH networks next by the end of the year.

"We've long believed that the Internet's next chapter will be built on gigabit speeds, so it's fantastic to see the momentum," Milo Medin, vice president of Google Access Services, wrote in the blog post. "And now that we've learned a lot from our Google Fiber projects in Kansas City, Austin, and Provo, we want to help build more ultra-fast networks."

Figure 1: As this map from Google Fiber shows, the FTTH provider is eyeing markets across the US, especially in the SE and SW. As this map from Google Fiber shows, the FTTH provider is eyeing markets across the US, especially in the SE and SW.

Notably, the nine markets selected by Google Fiber have a few things in common. Nearly all of them are in the Southeast or Southwest, meaning they should be relatively free of winter weather hazards that could hamper fiber network construction. And even Portland, the northernmost market on the list, doesn't get much snow or ice.

For another thing, several of the markets, like San Jose and Raleigh/Durham, are well-established technology hubs that would particularly welcome 1Gbit/s speeds. Plus, most of the markets are in states where labor unions are weak, which should result in lower construction and labor costs for Google Fiber.

Coincidentally or not, the nine markets are mainly areas where AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is the dominant telco. Among the major US broadband providers, AT&T generally offers the lowest maximum broadband speeds, though it is upgrading its network in Austin to deliver 1Gbit/s speeds. CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) and Frontier Communications Corp. (NYSE: FTR) operate in the other markets. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), whose FiOS Internet service offers maximum speeds of 500 Mbit/s, is conspicuously absent from the list. (See AT&T's Austin GigaPower Debuts at 300 Mbit/s.)

No such pattern is evident on the cable operator side of the ledger. Google Fiber, which already competes against Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) in Kansas City and Austin and against Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) in Provo, would mostly go up against one or the other in the nine new markets, as well. The sole exception is Phoenix, where Google Fiber would take on Cox Communications Inc. for the first time.

In his blog post, Medin wrote that his unit will "work closely with each city's leaders on a joint planning process" over the rest of the year to "map out a Google Fiber network in detail" and "assess what unique local challenges we might face." Google Fiber will "work on a detailed study of local factors that could affect construction." The cities "will complete a checklist of items that will help then get ready for a project of this scale and speed." For instance, Google Fiber expects the cities to produce maps of local conduit, water, gas, and electricity lines and help it access utility poles.

Medin warned that Google Fiber will not necessarily go forward in all the targeted cities, for reasons ranging from landscape issues to construction headaches to planning snafus to regulatory red tape. But he said even the cities that didn't make the grade would benefit from the comprehensive planning. "While we want to bring fiber to every one of these cities, it might not work out for everyone. But cities who go through this process with us will be more prepared for us or any provider who wants to build a fiber network."

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Alan Breznick

Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

Alan Breznick is a business editor and research analyst who has tracked the cable, broadband and video markets like an over-bred bloodhound for more than 20 years.

As a senior analyst at Light Reading's research arm, Heavy Reading, for six years, Alan authored numerous reports, columns, white papers and case studies, moderated dozens of webinars, and organized and hosted more than 15 -- count 'em --regional conferences on cable, broadband and IPTV technology topics. And all this while maintaining a summer job as an ostrich wrangler.

Before that, he was the founding editor of Light Reading Cable, transforming a monthly newsletter into a daily website. Prior to joining Light Reading, Alan was a broadband analyst for Kinetic Strategies and a contributing analyst for One Touch Intelligence.

He is based in the Toronto area, though is New York born and bred. Just ask, and he will take you on a power-walking tour of Manhattan, pointing out the tourist hotspots and the places that make up his personal timeline: The bench where he smoked his first pipe; the alley where he won his first fist fight. That kind of thing.

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