The vast majority of us in Washington State have Comcast as our internet service provider. As of 2010, Comcast was providing internet to 16.7 million households. There is also Century Link, the third largest telecom in the country, who absorbed QWEST in 2010. Comcast provides cable internet while Century Link is a DSL provider. There are a limited amount of other options, unless you live in Tacoma, whom is fortunate enough to have their own internet service via their public utility, Click!. Note that Tacoma, WA is one of the first cities in the entire United States to compete directly with corporate broadband via a publicly owned internet service provider. So for those of us who live outside of Tacoma, we are stuck with, for the most part, two ISPs, both of whom have a multitude of plans and speed levels available to us. Both of whom also have one of the worst customer service reputations in the country, but due to their monopoly on residential internet service, few can ever truly “jump ship.” Comcast is currently under investigation by The Department of Justice for their usage of data caps, limits to which individual customers can upload and download per month. Comcast, who recently purchased NBC Universal, has been accused of using their data caps to limit customer access to competing streaming services, like Netflix, which are fighting for the same customer base as Comcast’s XFINITY service. Comcast stated publicly that its 250gb data cap system was not imposed upon those customers accessing XFINITY or Comcast related content. US Department of Justice investigators have questioned Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and others as part of a “wide-ranging antitrust investigation into whether cable companies are acting improperly to quash nascent competition from online video,” the Wall Street Journal. In response to this investigation, Comcast recently suspended its data caps until they begin, later this Summer, to introduce a new system built around a 300gb limit. This new system has a tiered overage penalty of $10 dollars per every 50 gigabytes a customer goes over that limit. It was Comcast policy before this change to deny service to customers who exceeded their data limit more than twice in a year. There is a plethora of very detailed articles written about the state of American broadband, and just as we have come to fear the monopoly power of our banking system, our internet service in Washington is dependent upon two very powerful, very influential companies. Net neutrality has no place in the corporate broadband realm.
Enter Google Fiber. The tech behemoth best known for being the search engine for the entire world wide web, has paid to lay fiber infrastructure in the Kansas City area, making Google, the local ISP for residents. This broadband test project is, hopefully, the first of many entries into residential broadband by a company rich enough to compete with our current dominant powers. Google Fiber is fast, and revolutionary in its pricing. Google Fiber is a 100 times faster than the average internet speed in the US. The top tier connection offered by Google is 1 gigabyte per second download, 1 gigabyte per second upload at 70.00 dollars per month. The author of this story pays Comcast 86.00 dollars per month for their 22 megabyte per second download, 10 megabyte upload package. 1 gigabyte equals 1024 megabytes, meaning, well, I am now moving to Kansas City. There are no data caps with Google Fiber. Google also offers a host of other packages with television, a Nexus Tablet, and a 1 terabyte external backup drive. Due to the foundational nature of this broadband experiment, there are construction costs being passed on to the consumer, however, they are extremely reasonable compared with pricing from Comcast and Century Link. Those wanting the basic 5mbps/1mpbs standard non-dialup internet package are required to pay the 300.00 dollar construction fee waived for the larger plans. You can pay this over a yearly span at 25.00 dollars per month. After the initial construction fee is paid, your internet service is essentially free.
The speed, price, and privacy are astounding, and a welcome newcomer to the stale broadband market. This is a small scale roll out of a program that hopefully grows, however, there are many hurdles to the expansion of Google Fiber. The infrastructure isn’t cheap, nor is Comcast interested in competition. Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri are not completely “fibered,” and the first large scale neighborhoods should go live by September of 2012. You can petition for your neighborhood, if you’re a Kansas City resident, here. For the future one can hope that Google’s service inspires a large population to rethink their ISP and residential internet speeds, for in the world wide web, we are far behind. The United States is currently 26th in world in internet speed ranking. We are outclassed by Latvia and Romania, who enjoy some of the highest average speeds among developed countries. Google Fiber, come to Olympia please.
Learn more about Google Fiber here, and view their introduction video below.