Having launched Google Fiber in the Kansas City area last November, Google has now announced plans to extend the project to Austin, Texas.

Google’s fibre optics set to bring faster connectivity to Austin, Texas

Fibre optics is an extremely attractive technology, enabling households and firms to enjoy connectivity speeds around a hundred times faster than most solutions currently available, and thus representing, says Google, “a hundredfold step-function in what’s available today.” The first rollout of the fibre optic infrastructure was in Kansas City last November, and now the pioneering search engine company has decided to extend the project to Austin, Texas, a city known for being, according to Google’s blog, “a mecca for creativity and entrepreneurialism, with thriving artistic and tech communities.” The Kansas City conurbation was chosen, following a competitive selection process, from among 1,100 communities, of which Austin was one, with the aim of setting up an initial experimentation lab. Kansas City is relatively small with fairly straightforward infrastructure and a dense network judged highly appropriate for the fibre optics launch. Now that Google is looking to work on a larger scale, Austin will be the next destination for this project, with the first households being connected up by around mid-2014. Companies such as Comcast have already invested in fibre optics, but Google has opted for a community-based, progressive strategy, seeking to involve local players.

Providing ultra-fast connectivity to households and local institutionsBecause of its ultra-high speed, fibre optics has the power to change the way people use the Internet. With improved connectivity, the Google solution can help forge stronger links between a city’s inhabitants and their institutions. The company claims, for example, that installing fibre optics in Kansas City has been beneficial for health and education there. Indeed, the University of Kansas Medical Center now has much better access to medical resources and the Kansas City Public School District has been able to improve its teaching methods. By involving the city’s community and local bodies, Google’s intention was to improve its understanding of city dynamics while at the same time projecting a somewhat philanthropic image in the eyes of the locals. However, some commentators have been speculating as to how far Google will go towards expanding the service nationwide. A study from Bernstein Research suggests that extending this type of infrastructure to another 20 million households would cost Google around $11 billion.

Pilot project on a huge scale 

In a study published last year, Bernstein Research calculated that the Kansas City Google Fiber project had cost around $84 million up to the time it was first rolled out. This initial project enabled Google to gain an overall understanding of an average-sized US city, to pilot-test new applications and products, and to gather data on all the interactions taking place. Google is now offering a similar range of services to Austin. Three services are currently on offer to subscribers: firstly, free broadband at speeds of 5Mbps, for which the customer would pay only a one-off ‘construction’ fee; secondly, connectivity at a speed of one gigabit per second for $70 per month, with the ‘construction’ charge waived; or thirdly, the one gigabit per second broadband offer, with the addition of the Google TV service, at a total price of $120 per month. Google Fiber is also helping Google to roll out its range of devices, such as the new Android-based tablet the Nexus 7 –  as can be seen on the Google Fiber site – as well,  which raises the prospect of entire cities functioning, at least partially, on Google services.