BY LAURA LOREK
Founder of Silicon Hills News
Google fiber is coming to Austin.
It’s only the second city to get the Google fiber network which began rolling out in Kansas City, Kan. last year.
Google officials made the announcement Tuesday morning at a packed Brazos Hall conference center downtown filled with more than 100 local and state business officials, politicians and media representatives. The room erupted into applause when Google officially announced the fiber network for Austin with a wall-sized slide that proclaimed:
“Hello, Austin, Goodbye, loading bars”
The Google fiber network has already elicited a response from broadband competitor AT&T, based in Dallas, which on Tuesday also announced plans to deliver a 1 Gigabit broadband network to Austin. AT&T issued a release right after the Google event. AT&T “is prepared to build an advanced fiber optic infrastructure in Austin, Texas, capable of delivering speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second.”
No word yet on how Internet providers Time Warner Cable and Grande Communications will react to the new Google fiber network.
So what does all of this mean?
The Google fiber network means super fast uploading and downloading speeds that are 100 times faster for businesses and homes than what most broadband Internet users currently experience, as well as TV service with hundreds of high-definition channels. With 1 Gigabit Internet access, you can upload a 90 minute concert in 10 seconds or upload 300 vacation photos in 12 seconds.
“Way to go Austin. You’re changing the world,” said Gov. Rick Perry, who encouraged everyone to Tweet out the news using the hashtag #FiberATX.
The Google fiber network in Austin will transform the city’s already super hot technology startup industry and could lead to the world’s next Google, Perry said.
“Already, Austin is home to some of the boldest, most creative, most visionary people in the world,” Perry said. “This development will mean another way for those visionary companies, and many to come I would venture to guess, to help them take those innovations and those visions and make them a reality. It vastly increases the odds the next great thing, the next Google, will be born and bred right here in the Lone Star State. For these types of companies the connection with the Internet is the air that they breathe. The faster and the more stable, the better.”
Google fiber should spur even more technology startups in Austin
High speed Internet not only lets consumers stream videos, upload and download pictures and skype without issues, the Google fiber network can unleash all kinds of possibilities and innovations. The industries most likely to benefit include healthcare, education, new media, broadcast, business services, software companies and cloud computing businesses. The Google fiber network may even spawn new industries that don’t yet exist, said Joshua Baer, co-founder of Capital Factory, a coworking and technology accelerator downtown. He installed Time Warner’s 50 megabit network into his workplace recently at a cost of $4,000 a month. He was going to advertise that Capital Factory had the fastest Internet network in the city, but now Google’s announcement has made that obsolete, he said.
“For geeks, fast Internet is like a big monitor and a good chair,” Baer said. “It leads to higher job satisfaction and productivity.”
The Google fiber network means more companies and people will move to Austin to take advantage of the lightning fast Internet speeds, Baer said. It also means that more companies will launch the latest products and services here for the wired population to test out. And the Google fiber network will spawn all kinds of innovations that can only be left up to the imagination for now, he said.
When is Google fiber coming and how much will it cost?
While Google fiber’s pricing has not yet been announced, the Kansas City service runs about $70 a month for Internet service and $120 a month for combined TV and Internet service. In Kansas City, Google also offers “free” Internet which offers average American broadband speeds at no monthly charge for at least seven years to any homeowner who pays a $300 construction fee. Google plans to announce a business service package in Austin, said Kevin Lo, Google’s general manager of access services, but consumers are its priority.
Google will start working right away to build its infrastructure, Lo said. The company would not disclose the cost of the network but Lo said no taxpayer incentive money will be used to build and deploy the network. It is expected to be in operation by mid-2014, he said. TechCrunch cited a report estimating that Google would spend $11 billion to rollout its service nationwide to 20 million homes.
Austin applied to be the first recipient of the Google fiber technology in 2001 and it competed against more than 1,100 communities. Google selected Kansas City. But Austin never gave up, said Mayor Lee Leffingwell. The city’s business and community leaders, with Councilwoman Laura Morrison spearheading the effort, kept lobbying for the technology to come to Austin, he said. The city created videos, email marketing and social media campaigns and more. The campaign was called BigGigAustin.
“When Google was originally choosing where to bring fiber, Austin had one of the most enthusiastic reponses,” said Milo Medin, vice president of access services at Google.
Google fiber can lead to new innovations
“It’s a resource that can help make our city even more innovative,” Mayor Leffingwell said.
Austin asked its citizens how they would use the Google fiber network and they came up with a wide range of responses from interactive classrooms and medical center imaging and teleconferencing to uniquely Austin ideas like streaming live broadcasts of concerts and turning Austin into the live music capital of the Web, Morrison said. Other ideas included a smart energy management system for the home and a interactive town hall meeting online.
Morrison also recognized Gary Chapman, 58, a professor at the University of Texas, who died in 2010, and worked tirelessly to bring high-speed Internet access to Austin.
Creating fiberhoods in Austin
Morrison also mentioned that the Google fiber network will create “fiberhoods” that provide everyone access to the Internet. She showed a video of people in Austin proclaiming how they would use the high speed network.
Google sponsored a happy hour in February with RISE Austin and Engine Advocacy at Rattle Inn. At that event, Google gave away Google Austin T-shirts. The Engine Advocacy spokesman said the focus of the event was on H1-b Visas, patent reform and broadband spectrum access. But Google was mum about its plans for rolling out Google fiber, which was already in the works.
In a globally competitive world, Internet speeds matter
“We’re here because speed matters,” said Medin with Google. “At Google, we’re obsessed with speed.”
Everyone knows the frustration of trying to upload or download a large file on the Internet, Medin said. It wasn’t long ago that broadband Internet access was a novelty, he said. Broadband Internet access has led to all kinds of new innovations on the Web, he said. Yet despite the innovations, the speed of broadband access had not gotten that much better for most people, Medin said.
Today, the U.S. ranks 16th in Internet speeds worldwide and yet consumers pay some of the highest rates in the world, Medin said.
“This is a problem in a world that is globally competitive,” he said.
Medin said he was sadden to read a story in the Wall Street Journal in January about high school students who hang out in the parking lots of Starbucks and McDonald’s to use the free Wi-Fi to complete their homework.
“We’re giving everyone living within Austin the choice to use Google fiber,” he said. “No more waiting on the Internet.”
With the Google fiber Internet and TV package, consumers will get a Digital Video Recorder and they will be able to record up to eight high-definition television shows at the same time.
“The way Google fiber works, we build where you tell us to,” Medin said. The first rollouts of the service will be in the neighborhoods with the most demand, he said. The area that has the most people sign up for the service will get it first.
Google has confirmed that it’s going to bring Google fiber to small businesses and that’s expected to make Austin, which has a growing technology base, even more competitive with Silicon Valley, said Eugene Sepulveda, CEO of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas.
“It means greater productivity and a higher quality of life,” Sepulveda said. “It will definitely be a competitive advantage for Austin.”
High tech companies are already looking to relocate to Texas
Already, the Austin Technology Council gets a few calls every week from California high-tech companies looking to move to Texas to escape high taxes in California, said Julie Huls, president and CEO of ATC. Now she expects even more calls.
“Google fiber validates Austin as a Tier One market for technology,” Huls said. “It really solidifies our place. The announcement alone will create additional global visibility for Austin.”
Huls said she recently spoke with the Kansas City Technology Council CEO who told her that Google fiber has dramatically changed the city and spurred further technology startups.
If I had Google fiber I would…..
Following the official announcement, the invited guests went upstairs for tacos and sodas and to receive Google blue “swag bags” with a white Google fiber Austin T-shirt in them. People also filled out red Google map marker stickers that said “If I had Google fiber I would ….” They filled in the blank with all kinds of suggestions including work from my hammock and rule the world and they placed them on a map of Austin.
Google kicked off the announcement with this video.
This video gives even more details on Google fiber.
Gov. Rick Perry’s speech at the Google fiber event.
Nathan Bernier with KUT Austin has uploaded a soundcloud file with the full 30 minute press conference, if you would like to listen to it yourself.
For more information on the availability of the Google Fiber service in Austin, sign up for updates.