Google breaks ground today on the super-fast fiber optic network it plans to build for the lucky residents of Kansas City, Kan. They'll get a 1 gigabit-per-second Internet connection, which will offer downloads 100 times faster than what most Americans get. Uploads will be a thousand times faster than average.
Kansas City won this privilege over 1,100 other cities in March 2011. Since then, Google and the city have been surveying, planning, and eating "way too much barbecue," says Google's manager, Kevin Lo. Today, they start laying cable. A few months behind the Kansas side, neighbors on the other side of the river in Kansas City, Mo. will get the hook-up as well.
How Fast Is Fiber?
fastest Internet connection on record was established by researchers at the SuperComputing 2011 conference in Seattle. They were testing ways to share the enormous amounts of data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Center for Nuclear Research. That connection reached 186 gigabits per second. Google Fiber is just 1 gigabit.Fiber optic cable contains a bundle of glass fibers about the width of a human hair. The
That's not too shabby, though. Verizon's FiOS network, which is among the fastest commercially available in the U.S., gets only 150 megabits per second. Google Fiber will be almost 7 times faster than that.
How Will Kansas City's Fiber Work?
Kansas City won the Google Fiber competition because it met all of Google's various requirements. "Our goal was to find a location where we could build efficiently, make an impact on the community, and develop working partnerships with the local government, utility and community organizations," its FAQ says. "We believe we've found this in both Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri."
Lo says the network will use "thousands of miles" of cable. The backbone of the network will be built first, and then Google Fiber will be connected to homes around Kansas City. The cable work starts today after months of surveying and measuring, as well as some negotiations around how to use the city's utility poles.
The Kansas City Star reports that Google and the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities had some disagreement over how the network would be hung on the city's utility poles.
The Wyandotte County government wrote the plan with an unusual stipulation that Google would be allowed to hang its cables for free, using part of the poles typically reserved for utility companies to hang their own communication cables, not for third parties. Phone and cable companies typically use a lower part of the pole, and they pay a fee to do so.
The special installation for Google would also have required more specialized crews, so it would be more costly. The Star's source says that Google will opt to pay the regular fees like any third-party provider.
Google says the later stages of this experiment will reach over 500,000 people. Google has promised competitive prices for residential Internet service, but it hasn't been specific yet.
Why Is Google Becoming An ISP?
Google's not just doing this to collect Internet bills from homes. When the Internet gets faster, Google's whole business benefits. Google wants to test new, bandwidth-intensive "killer apps" to see what kinds of future services it can provide. But even for normal Web services, speed benefits Google. Put bluntly, the faster your Internet, the more Google ads you can see. That's why Google search and the Chrome browser are so dang fast.
Google refers to this Google Fiber project as an "experiment," so don't get too excited about 1-gigabit fiber in your neighborhood just yet (unless you're in Kansas City). But as Google said in its initial announcement, there are big implications for testing this out in the U.S. The country isn't even in the top 10 for average connection speed. Google wants to push U.S. Internet infrastructure forward.
As for Kansas City, with these kinds of speeds, there's sure to be a boom in next-generation Internet start-ups.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock