Google unveiled Thursday morning details about its anticipated ultra-high-speed internet network that has been a year in the making for the Kansas City area.
The service is intended as a showcase for what's technically possible and as a testbed for the development of new ways to use the internet. Bypassing the local cable and phone companies, Google has spent months and an unknown amount of money pulling its own optical fiber through the two-state Kansas City region.
Google said its "Fiber for Communities" service will deliver internet access 100 times faster than broadband connections offered by telephone and cable companies. Customers in Wyandotte County and portions of Jackson County can sign up for the high-speed service, which will cost $70 a month.
One service is free but includes a $300 installation fee. You can sign for up to seven years of service. Another service including television will cost $120 a month.
Three area neighborhoods have already met the sign-up goals to get the high-speed service.
There are few ways for consumers to take advantage of gigabit speeds. For everyday activities such as web surfing, email and video watching, there will likely be no substantial difference. The higher speeds will help with video sharing and online backups.
"You can upload as fast as you can download," Google Vice President Milo Medin said during a news conference Thursday morning. "It's internet 100 times faster than what most residents have today."
Customers will be able to download movies, live television shows and taped shows through the internet. Customers can use tablets, smartphones, Android and iPhones to interact with their television.
"It is pretty cool. It is a neat technology," said Aaron Deacon, president of the Social Media Club of Kansas City. "Uploading video content, for example, to the web or your music content is going to happen so much faster."
Company officials said they hope its Kansas City service will prod telecommunications and cable providers to upgrade their services in communities nationwide.
Ramsey Mohsen, a well-known technology blogger, said the price point must be competitive.
"If Google doesn't come in under the $100 price point, I really think it is going to be tough to justify whether or not they should switch," Mohsen said.
Deacon, on the other hand, said not to worry. Officials have long said pricing won't be a problem.
"They've said consistently that it's going to be competitive to what people pay now for current internet speed, so I would expect that to be the case," Deacon said.
Deacon and Mohsen both agree that the speed will likely affect the way people communicate with each other personally and professionally.
Given the speed of the internet, Deacon said, the way people communicate over the web by video will "explode."
Google Inc. said it will offer three packages to Kansas City metro area residents, including "gigabit" internet service - about 100 times faster than cable internet - for $70 a month and a package with internet and cable TV for $120 a month. A Nexus tablet will serve as the remote for the "full Google experience."
Google said it will offer a slower internet option with no monthly fee for subscribers who pay a $300 installation fee. The fee can be paid out at a cost of $25 a month over the first year. This service will offer a DSL-like 5 megabits per second.
You can sign up to get on the list for service, but you must pay a $10 signup fee. Google is creating "fiberhoods" in which neighborhoods must show enough interest to get the service. You have until Sept. 9 to sign up.
Two Kansas City neighborhoods and one Kansas City, KS, neighborhood have already met their sign-up goals to get the service. The service will begin first in Wyandotte County and then expand east.
"Kansas Citians will us when and where to start," said Kevin Lo, general manager for Google Access. "Each fiberhood has a minimum goal, meaning a minimum number of users who need to pre-register. For the most part, that is 40 to 80 neighbors."
Taxes and fees are not included in the prices.
It's expensive to pull optical fiber compared with using existing phone and cable lines to provide internet service. Verizon Communications Inc. is the only major U.S. telecommunications company to have connected homes directly to fiber. Wall Street analysts said that project, which has cost $23 billion, is not paying off.
Verizon has stopped adding new communities to its network, dubbed FiOS. It charges $70 per month for download speeds of 15 megabits per second, less than 2 percent the speed of Google's gigabit.
Google plans to expand its service to include schools, libraries, government building and other locations.
Excited officials beamed at Thursday's news conference.
"No other city has this opportunity," KCK Mayor Joe Reardon said. "It's very exciting."
For more details about Google's offerings, click here.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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