18 Months On, Google Fiber Lands in Charlotte
It's been a year and a half since Google Fiber announced it would bring gigabit service to Charlotte, N.C., but the wait is finally over.
Google Fiber Inc. posted the news today that it's launching gigabit sign-ups in Charlotte starting with the Highland Creek neighborhood and continuing on (over time) with deployment plans for as many communities as it can feasibly reach within the city. Standard service plans include packages for gigabit Internet plus TV ($130/mo.), standalone gigabit Internet ($70/mo.) and Internet service with speeds up to 100 megabits per second ($50/mo.).
While Google Fiber has dithered, however, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has long since introduced its own gigabit offering to Charlotte residents. The telco's GigaPower service has been available in North Carolina's biggest city for more than a year, making Google Fiber appear the laggard in the race for Charlotte gigabit customers. (See AT&T Launches Gigapower in Charlotte.)
AT&T is by no means the perfect partner. It doesn't make service universally available in Charlotte either, and AT&T confirmed last August that only about 20% of Charlotte households had GigaPower access. The cost for gigabit service is comparable to Google Fiber's offering, but users must agree to allow AT&T to collect their web browsing data. Otherwise, the cost goes up an additional $29 per month.
Charlotte CIO Jeff Stovall did say at Light Reading's Gigabit Cities Live conference in April that, "Google Fiber's been a really good organization to work with," particularly because the company agreed with Charlotte's determination to work with any Internet service provider wanting to bring gigabit broadband to the city. (See Charlotte Not Resting on Its Gigabit Laurels.)
Stovall and other city leaders have also been keenly focused on working to close the digital divide in Charlotte, which Google Fiber has promised to help do. As part of today's launch, Google Fiber is offering a $15-per-month broadband option for communities in need with speeds up to 25 Mbit/s, and free gigabit Internet to select public and affordable housing buildings.
Separately today, Google Fiber also announced three new Internet service plans for businesses in Google Fiber cities. These plans start as low as $70 per month and are designed to target a range of business sizes.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading