How quickly will Google act?

How quickly will Google act?

As of September, a favoured few Kansas City residents will be offered one gigabit per second broadband speeds at reasonably affordable prices.

The Midwestern state is Google’s nurturing ground for an ultra-fast internet/TV service that will offer speeds 100 times faster than the average US broadband connection.

Kansas City was selected for the pilot fibre service because of its “enthusiasm for better, faster web connections”. Roll-out of the service is tailored to local demand, with the internet giant separating the city into ‘fiberhoods’ of between 250 and 1,500 households each.

Potential subscribers are able to pre-register online for the service and Google will then use that interest to determine which fiberhoods it connects to first.

It’s a modest approach. South Korea is the global trailblazer of ultra-fast internet connections and it has lofty ambitions to connect every household in the country to the internet at one gigabit per second by the end of 2012. In comparison, Google expects only 50% of fiberhoods to be connected by mid-2013.

Essentially, the internet giant is gently dipping its toes in ISP and wholesale territory. It wants to know if a combination of eye-catching technology and its iconic primary coloured brand name is enough to gain consumer confidence. Cherry picking a city in the tech savvy state of Missouri further reduces its risk of failure.

The scale of the project won’t have traditional US cable providers quaking in their boots just yet, and at best, Google can hope to eventually challenge the local dominance of Time Warner Cable in Kansas City. The carrier community, however, might want to cast a wary eye at this development.

As our July/August cover story on over-the-top (OTT) providers highlights, some senior members of the industry are becoming increasingly sensitive to the perceived ‘threat’ of the likes of Google, Facebook and Skype.

There is a growing consensus that infrastructure is the only bargaining tool carriers have left, and in Kansas City at least, Google appears to have its eye on that prize.

Alex Hawkes, Deputy Editor

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