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Fiber Optic Options: How Google Fiber Expanded the Playing Field


Fast Internet ConceptGoogle Fiber made headlines when it announced internet speeds 100 times as fast as what customers experience with other internet service providers, as their site explained. But Fiber isn’t the only high-speed internet service provider on the market, and it has been plagued with problems since the initial 2011 launch. Google Fiber’s biggest effect may be on its competition, as major broadband and FiOS providers are upping their minimum speeds as well.

Google Fiber: Slow Rollout, Slow Speeds

In July 2012, Google Fiber rolled out in Kansas City, the pilot city for its new home internet network. Next on the list are Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah. Fiber users have found their speed limited by the servers of other websites. David Talbot reports in the MIT Technology Review that Fiber users accessing Netflix only get a 3.8 Mbps speed, because that is all the Netflix servers can handle.

While Fiber does offer higher speeds than many internet customers are currently experiencing, the speeds have yet to reach the peak promised by Google — and will not do so until enterprise infrastructure is upgraded to handle the ultra high speed internet. Still, the higher speeds do make it easier for users to stream media, download large files, send and share large files, videoconference with colleagues and play online games.

What Fiber Means for Customers

While Google Fiber may not be as widely available as some might wish, it is having an interesting impact on other FiOS providers: In August 2013, Comcast increased the speeds on its low-cost internet essentials program to 1Mbps upstream and 5 Mbps downstream — the same minimum speeds that Google Fiber offers for free, reports GigaOM. Comcast customers who are not available for the income-based internet essentials program can enjoy internet speeds of 1Mbps upstream and 3Mbps downstream. Verizon customers can enjoy FiOS speeds of 15/5Mpps, depending on Verizon FiOS availability. If you’re unable to get Google Fiber, there are other ultra high speed internet options that will allow you to enjoy all of the benefits of streaming media without buffering.

Google Fiber has certainly helped to focus the debate on broadband pricing. In areas without provider competition, broadband can be too expensive for some customers. Google Fiber’s simple and transparent pricing structure has captured customer attention, and providers may follow by making their own internet pricing structure more transparent across the board.

As Wired’s Marcus Wohlsen notes, Google isn’t in the business of being an internet service provider. While Fiber benefits the Google empire by generating press, Google doesn’t think that it should shoulder the cost of building a fiber network all alone and hopes that other internet service providers will sink funds into expanding the uber-high speed fiber optic network to other cities. This may mean that Fiber does not expand beyond the three test cities, but time will tell. Provo and Austin residents can still sign up for the Fiber pilot in their cities; residents of communities neighboring Kansas City can sign up for the Fiber extension. As Fiber comes to life in these three cities, it may spur the continued innovation of high speed internet from all of the major ISPs, something that would certainly benefit customers.

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