Google Fiber: are gigabit speeds the real story, or free Internet access?

Summary:Google has been in the news lately regarding their fiber gigabit speeds -- a marvelous prospect that has many of us salivating at the thought of -- but what about the free Internet access they're also offering? That's pretty amazing, too.

Have you heard the news? Google has finally started rolling out their fiber initiative , beginning with Kansas City. Google Fiber boasts gigabit speeds that absolutely blow cable Internet speeds out of the water, and for an unbelievably-priced $70 to boot! But while gigabit speeds are an enticingly-delicious prospect to many of us, I think the bigger story here is their offering of free Internet access. Yes, free.

Up front, here are the particulars of Google Fiber's "free Internet" tier:

  • Up to 5Mbps download, 1Mbps upload speed
  • No data caps
  • Free service guaranteed for at least 7 years
  • Includes Network Box
  • $300 construction fee (one time or 12 monthly payments of $25) + taxes and fees

So, is free truly "free?" Not initially, no, but $25 a month for 12 months is far more affordable than any comparable tier from any other provider at the moment. At that, once the $300 construction fee is satisfied -- be it one-time or monthly -- that leaves a guaranteed 6 years of free Internet access.

Now, while 5Mbps down/1Mbps up might not sound all that impressive to you, bear in mind the millions of people who either do not have Internet access at all, or who do not have broadband Internet access -- including some 3 million who are still paying for AOL dial-up! And this doesn't take into account if Google decides to up those speeds at some point.

Unfortunately, I imagine it will be as difficult for Google to run fiber as it's been for current ISPs to run their wire in challenging areas (see: mountains, boondocks, etc.). Likewise, there's the time it's going to take for Google Fiber to expand well beyond Kansas City, and that could take many years.

Either way, it will be interesting to see if Google is forthcoming with any data from their free subscription tier -- even just from Kansas City. The thought of the Internet becoming accessible to people where it hasn't yet been is exciting to me. And it's not only from a philanthropic standpoint that I say that, but also from the standpoint of giving currently-stagnated talent (children, underprivileged adults, etc.) a chance to flourish where they're currently unable to, due to no Internet service.

Lastly, "free Internet" will inevitably motivate current ISPs to rethink their service tiers and pricing. I don't think that will happen for quite some time, but if Google can successfully get the ball rolling with Google Fiber across the country, that should make for more and more winners as ISPs are forced to either shape up or ship out. One can only hope, at least.

If you haven't heard much about Google Fiber yet, Google posted a YouTube video describing the service, including how it works, how they plan on implementing/installing it, and all the goodies you end up with (including a free Nexus 7 tablet as a remote control, if you go for the 2-year, $120/mo Gigabit + TV package). For your viewing pleasure:

If you would like to read more about Google Fiber and keep up with the latest from Google, here are some official Google resources for you to bookmark:

So, whatever the extent and reach of Google Fiber ends up being, its future certainly looks extremely bright. I just hope it flourishes throughout this country like wildfire, and preferably sooner than later!

What do you think? Will Google Fiber kick off and eventually become the new standard, or will ISPs make moves to maintain the majority of their customers? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Topics: Google

About

Stephen is a freelance writer and blogger based in Charlotte, NC. His contributions to ZDNet cover topics related to security, gaming, Microsoft, Apple, and other topics of interest with a tech/SMB skew.

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