Google Fiber and Your Need For Speed
by Perry Michael Simon on July 26, 2012
Okay, so now we know what Google Fiber is going to be all about: 1 gigabit Internet and TV service.
Roll that around in your head for a little bit. 1 GIGABIT.
Geez. That’s fast.
But do you… all right, let’s pause for a minute here and go over the details, announced today. It’ll initially be offered in Kansas City (both of them, Missouri and Kansas), and you’ll pay ten bucks to pre-register (which you have to do before September 9th), $300 bucks for them to run fiber to your house, and have to wait to see if they decide to do your neighborhood (they’re looking for 5 to 25% of homes in an area before they’ll go in). There’ll be three tiers of service: free 5 Mbps Internet-only for at least seven years to anyone who pays the $300 installation fee (which you can pay in 12 installments), 1 gigabit Internet-only for $70/month, and Internet with some TV with a DVR and a Nexus 7 tablet (your remote!) for $120/month (and that $300 fee is waived with the latter two packages, which also include 1 TB of Google Drive storage; the TV package adds a 2 TB “storage box” for DVR video). No data caps.
So far, sounds great. Downside? Not all the channels you’d want if you’re replacing cable (no HBO, no ESPN, no BBC America, no FX or CNN or Cartoon Network or several others), although that could and probably will change in time. You’re at the mercy of your neighbors wanting to sign up before you can get it.
And then there’s this. 1 gigabit sounds awesome, especially for streaming. But do you really need it? My experience with FiOS is that fiber is indeed fast — speed tests look great — and it’s nice for downloads and uploads, but for streaming, it’s not that much different. Streaming video still has the occasional glitch. Web pages aren’t as instant as you’d want, because you’re still at the mercy of how fast the page’s server serves up content. I still have the same long pause with some websites (coughL.A.Timescough) that bog down while waiting for a third-party ad server to react. Plus, Wi-Fi is still going to knock you down a lot, because with all the dual radios and antennas they use, it’s still not going to send anything along at 1 gigabit, and if they do what FiOS does — I couldn’t find this out for now — and use existing coaxial cable inside the house rather than string fiber through your walls, that’ll affect speed, too. You’ll find that the Mac beach ball and the Windows hourglass are not things of the past, speed or no speed.
But I’m still at just a fraction of 1 gigabit. And if you’re currently suffering with slow DSL speeds or tethered to your cell phone, you’re going to want to go for it. Plus, that much bandwidth is more future-proof than anything else out there; It’s plenty of room for any streaming or downloads you’re likely to encounter in the foreseeable future. If you’re on halfway decent broadband, though… do you think you’d sign up? Is 1 gigabit at $70/month attractive enough to you to spend, well, $70/month? How fast do you need your Internet service to be, and how much of your monthly budget are you willing to assign to it? Are you now drooling and planning to move to Kansas City, or are you all like “meh”? Talk about it in the comments.