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Opinion: Google Fiber and you!

Published March 5, 2014

The Mountain View-based internet tech company Google recently released a list of 10 metropolitan areas its fiber-optic team is considering for installing Google Fiber. Google Fiber is the fiber-optic internet service that has excited the tech world since its announcement and first installation in Kansas City in 2011. Since then Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah have gotten the service.

One of the areas of expansion is centered around San Jose, and includes Santa Clara, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Palo Alto. According to Google, “These cities are led by people who have been working hard to bring faster Internet speeds and the latest technologies to their residents.” However, just because we were selected does not mean we’ll get the service.

Fiber’s claim to fame is its high speed Internet service for decently priced plans. The fiber-optic service provides a 1000 megabyte per second (Mbps) Internet speed, which, Google claims, is at least 10 times faster than any competing service. And to its credit, it’s right. The fastest Comcast plan runs at 50 mbps, and the fastest AT&T plan is only 18 mbps. To put this in perspective, downloading an average length high definition movie, 7-8 gigabytes, takes over two minutes on the best Comcast plan – but with Fiber, it would take just seven seconds.

Such a remarkable increase in Internet speed could revolutionize the way we interact with the Web. Not only would waiting for websites to load and online videos to buffer become a thing of the past, technologies such as cloud computing and storage would become much more prevalent, aiding in the further integration of our daily lives with the Internet. These advances could have implications in areas ranging from health to education.

Google also offers considerably better prices than its competitors for its immensely superior speeds. Its most expensive package, which includes the 1000 Mbps “Gigabit” speed, HD TV channels, and a tablet for a remote, costs $120 per month – the same as AT&T’s best plan. Comcast’s fastest plan costs $20 more than the Fiber plan for a 20th of the speed, and doesn’t include TV or the tablet. Fiber also offers the option of paying a one-time $300 construction fee for free five Mbps Internet forever.

Google’s service clearly trumps that of its competitors, so you might wonder why Google does not simply offer Fiber service across the country. The answer is that, in order to achieve the gigabit speeds provided by Fiber, fiber-optic cables have to be installed underground by construction crews, a process which is fairly expensive for both Google and the host city.

This is where the issue stands and where you can help bring Fiber to our community. Google has chosen these 10 city areas for consideration because all of them have already expressed interest in creating their own fiber-optic networks; Palo Alto has considered installing residential fiber-optic cables on its own, but the idea was struck down and then reopened several times in the city government. Perhaps it would just be better to let Google do it for us.

Google requests (read: demands) that the city governments cooperate with its construction crews to locate existing pipes and lines and figure out which routes to take. Without cooperation, the installation process could be long and detrimental to the neighborhoods it passes through, or might not occur at all. Other cities have taken a variety of actions to try and obtain Fiber: Provo constructed its own residential fiber-optic network (which Google later used to implement Fiber there), and Topeka went so far as to rename itself ‘Google’ for a month.

We don’t advocate going that far, but if you’re interested in Google Fiber, you should contact the City Council and let them know that you and thousands of other Palo Altans want it. Fiber-optic networks are the future of the Internet, and Google offering to install its service here is a chance that we shouldn’t pass up.

Palo Alto is and should remain at the forefront of technological advancement. People here already do amazing things, and a fiber-optic network for everyone would open new doors and help insure Palo Alto stays at the helm of the tech industry. And to the credit of our neighbors, the entire San Jose area included in Google’s plan is equally innovative. In fact, the Google Campus is located in Mountain View, and it almost seems unfair the rest of the city doesn’t have Fiber yet.

It’s also important to note that this isn’t about supporting Google itself – it’s about supporting what they’re offering. It’s a far better offer than any other Internet plan available now, and it’s a massive step forward for the world of technology.

Corporation politics aside, Google Fiber is a project worth supporting. It’s time for gigabit speeds to expand, and Palo Alto is the perfect city to get it. With our help as citizens of this city, we can help in taking a huge step forward for the Internet and technology.

Featured Image by Rosham Nikam on Flickr.com


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