By LAURA LOREK
Founder of Silicon Hills News
“San Antonians deserve Internet speed that is faster than the third world and now we’ll have it,” Mayor Julian Castro said at a press conference at City Hall.
Google’s fiber network provides uploading and downloading speeds 100 times faster for businesses and homes than what most broadband Internet users currently experience. It also provides TV service with hundreds of high-definition channels. With 1 Gigabit Internet access, consumers can upload a 90-minute concert in 10 second or upload 300 photos in 12 seconds.
Google announced Wednesday the next step in expanding its Google Fiber network by inviting 34 cities in nine metro areas across the U.S. to work with the company to explore what it would take to build a new fiber optic network in their community.
San Antonio first applied to be a Google fiber city in 2010 along with 1,100 other cities. Since then, Google has officially launched its 1 Gigabit Internet network in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri, Austin and Provo, Utah.
To get the network, San Antonio officials must provide detailed maps for utility construction, access for Google to put its fiber on existing poles or conduit and a good permitting process to get the city ready for its fiber installation.
A formal announcement will be made later this year if Google decides to begin deploying its network throughout the city, Castro said.
Since April when Google announced plans for its super fast high-speed fiber network in Austin, AT&T, Time Warner and Grande Communications have all announced 1 Gigabyte networks in the city.
Castro said he expects to see the same kind of competition emerge in San Antonio, the nation’s seventh largest city.
“I’m convinced in short order we’ll see the same kind of competition which is good for the consumer,” Castro said.
Castro announced last June that every school in the city should have access to gigabit speeds by 2020.
The installation of Google fiber in San Antonio will help spur the city’s growing technology industry as well as attract startup companies, Castro said.
“The implications of fiber to the home are widespread,” City Manager Sheryl Sculley said.
A high-speed fiber Internet network will impact everything from educational institutions to the development of entrepreneurs looking to establish new business models, she said.
“It will provide existing and growing businesses a competitive advantage in a fast-moving digital economy.”
Google fiber will also make the city more globally competitive, Sculley said.
“Ultra high speed Internet will enhance our ability to compete economically on the world stage,” she said.
The project is not costing San Antonio any money in incentives, Sculley said.
While Google wants to bring fiber to every city, it might not work out for every city, according to the company.
“But cities who go through this process with us will be more prepared for us or any provider who wants to build a fiber network.”
Mark Strama, head of Google Fiber in Austin, said the announcement in San Antonio will not affect the rollout of Google fiber in Austin. He expects the first customers in Austin to have the service by the end of 2014.
“Google believes that a faster Internet is better for everybody,” Strama said.
The other metro areas Google announced today for its short list are Portland, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Nashville, Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham.Both Austin and San Antonio having high speed Internet will only strengthen this region as a technology powerhouse going forward, Castro said.
“I have no doubt that this region will be recognized the way the Bay area is recognized in California,” he said.
Google’s gigabit fiber is a game changer for San Antonio’s economy and will have as big an impact as the shift from dial-up Internet to broadband did, according to city leaders.
“We’re a city of small business owners,” said Ramiro Cavazos, CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “This investment in dark fiber gives us freedom to grow our economy even faster in the future.”
The New York Times did a story last December discussing how the U.S. is struggling to keep up with providing high-speed Internet and is falling behind the rest of the world and is at jeopardy of losing its competitive advantage. The article spotlighted San Antonio’s slow Internet speed and reported it’s no match for the Latvian capital of Riga on the Baltic Sea.
“Riga’s average Internet speed is at least two-and-a-half times that of San Antonio’s, according to Ookla, a research firm that measures broadband speeds around the globe. In other words, downloading a two-hour high-definition movie takes, on average, 35 minutes in San Antonio — and 13 in Riga,” according to the New York Times Story. “And the cost of Riga’s service is about one-fourth that of San Antonio.”