What is the World’s Fastest Internet Service? Google Fiber. In March of 2010, Google announced its intention to build super-fast fiber-optic Internet service in “a small number of trial locations across the United States.” A year later, after receiving more than 1,000 applications from cities and towns across the country, Google chose Kansas City as its first location. Last November, Google began installing service in people’s homes. For $70 a month, the company offers Kansas City residents a 1-gigabit Internet line—the fastest home Internet service available anywhere in the world, about 150 times faster than the average American broadband speed of 6.7 Mbps.
For $120 a month, you get the 1-GB line plus cable-like TV service, as well as a Nexus 7 tablet that you can use as your remote. There’s also a “free” plan: After you pay a $300 construction fee—which you can split into 12 payments of $25—Google will provide your home with a 5-Mbps Internet line for “at least seven years,” and probably indefinitely.
These are amazing services at unbelievable prices. For about the same fee that many Americans currently pay for cable, Google is offering Internet speeds that, until now, were available only to big companies for thousands of dollars a month.
Therein lies the mystery. Google’s gigabit initiative, called Google Fiber, has sparked a round of questions across the tech industry. Is Google looking to become an Internet service provider? Does it simply want to spur other ISPs into providing faster service? And why wire Kansas City rather than, say, Silicon Valley or New York? And, finally, why gigabit Internet—what does Google expect people to do with the world’s fastest broadband service?
One of the first places in Kansas City was the Fiber Space, a lavish showroom that Google built to show what’s possible with a 1-GB Internet line. The Fiber Space is an odd place—an effort to render visible and fun something that you can’t really see. It looks a bit like a futuristic Ikea, with TVs, laptops, and tablet computers tastefully arranged in several stylishly decorated mock living rooms.
At Fiber Space,to prove that we were connected to a real Fiber line, one of Casas’ assistants loaded up Google Fiber’s speed test page. A few seconds later, we saw the astounding results: The computer was getting 938.24 Mbps download speeds, and uploads were at 911.67 Mbps. By comparison, the AT&T U-Verse home Internet line—which costs us about $60 a month, only slightly less than Google Fiber’s 1-GB plan—gets downloads of about 22 Mbps and uploads of 3 Mbps. Google’s download speeds are 42 times faster than this and its uploads are 303 times faster.
To be sure, this was pretty cool. If that’s Google’s best demo of its superfast service, what does it suggest about what regular people will do with it? First, super-fast lines must allow us to do things that we can’t do with the pedestrian Internet. This will prompt more people to demand gigabit lines, which will in turn invite developers to create more apps that require high speed, and so on. “The rest of the Internet is too slow for Google Fiber.”
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