Google Fiber

One gigabit of download speed. It’s easy to talk about, but not easily conceived. We can read all the stats and data we like, but until it’s experienced, none of it really makes sense.

So, how can we actually experience Fiber? Building a fiber optic network is a huge task, so how does Google accomplish it all? More importantly, we want to know how we can get it in our cities. We recently had a chat with the Fiber team, to ask all of our Fiber-y questions. We wanted to know how Fiber came to be, what it means for Google, and what it does for the cities (and citizens) lucky enough to have it.

Why choose the cities you do? We know the qualifications, but is there more to it than that?

Not really, no. It’s really all about demand. If you look at the three cities we’ve announced, so far we have growing tech scenes in every one of them. That’s a big deal for us. If you think about Fiber now, it’s hard to really describe what you can do with a gigabit. We feel those applications are the next generation of the web, but they haven’t been built yet. We want to bring Fiber to those places where people will be able to use it creatively to come up with those apps.

It’s really all about demand.

Another factor is that the city leadership is easy to work with. We like to have good relationships with the Mayor’s office and city council. We’re building a pretty big, advanced infrastructure in their area, and folks who are willing to work with us make the entire process easier.

Do things like municipally owned utilities factor in? It seems so simple to just enjoy a good working relationship with the city.

If you look at the different market’s we’re in, it’s all really different. It’s tough when we say that, because people may think Google is getting some sort of incentive or subsidy in having Fiber in the markets we do. We don’t get any kind of incentive or subsidy. At all. It’s more about the process for getting Fiber implemented, and figuring out ways to cut red tape, make response times faster, streamline the process for getting permits expedited, things like that. Anything that can trim a day or two off the process is huge for us in building the massive infrastructure that is Fiber throughout the city.

So, basically, you want a city government that is on the same page as you.

Exactly. Things as simple as providing a single liaison we can get in touch with at the city, who helps us route requests internally at the city. Those are a big help for us.


When you get to an area like Kansas City, why is Fiber good for the community?

One of the things that excited us about building in our first Fiberhood (Hanover Heights) last November was that there was a huge startup scene that swelled around Fiber coming to their neighborhood. Folks bought houses in the neighborhood. They even call it ‘startup village’! There were venture capitalists who bought houses. Brad Fell, a venture capitalist who lives in Colorado, bought a house and is now renting it out free to developers. There is a group of people who believe they can build apps using a gigabit, and there is a great energy of activity around that scene.

It’s hard to put a finger on the economic impact so far, but it’s really good for the city. We hope this type of startup energy ends up being a long-term benefit for any place Fiber goes. Fiber is just one element of the growing tech economy in Kansas City.

What is the cost associated with building Fiber out?

We don’t really like to comment on specific numbers, but it’s a very significant investment. I’d also point to the fact that the cost of building Fiber is lower than it traditionally has been. The cost of the actual fiber is much more affordable, and so are the electronics associated.

Another interesting thing is that we build by demand. In July, we announced our plans for Kansas City. Until September, we had a pre-registration period. We divided Kansas City into 202 ‘Fiberhoods’, which had a residential threshold. Those residents had to go online, and request Fiber. Those Fiberhoods who qualified, based on number of respondents, were on our list for build-out. 180 of the 202 Fiberhoods qualified, , so 89% of Kansas City is getting Fiber. If residents want Fiber, we give it to them, plain and simple. Those with the best response numbers get Fiber first, sure, but we bring it to all qualifying Fiberhoods.

So you just kind of go in, get focused, and build Fiber.

Exactly. In our first Fiberhood, we concentrated all of our efforts (installers, construction people, etc.) into Hanover Heights over the course of a few weeks, which allowed us to build Fiber out quickly and efficiently. That way, we didn’t have installers spreading themselves thin all over the city. They can concentrate on one neighborhood.

Things like that cut cost, cut time, and allow us to bring Fiber to neighborhoods really efficiently.