Google is planning to offer high-speed Internet service in Nashville, Atlanta, Charlotte and 31 other cities scattered across eight states in the company's boldest challenge yet to cable and telecommunications providers.
The ambitious expansion announced Wednesday targets Arizona, California, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Utah. The markets span some of the largest cities in the U.S. They include: Atlanta, San Jose, Calif., Phoenix; San Antonio; Portland, Ore. and Salt Lake City. The company also hopes to bring the Internet service, called "Google Fiber," to its hometown of Mountain View, Calif.
Chattanooga was the first city in 2010 to offer gigabit-per-second Internet connections through EPB Fiber, the city-owned utility that got more than $111 million from the federal government to build its fiber network for a smart electric grid.
But unlike EPB, which offers gigabit service to all of its 170,000 customers, Google only builds fiber optic service in neighborhoods where a cerrtain threshold of residences pre-order the service, leaving communities like Kansas City split into have's and have nots. Until gigabit Internet is available throughout Kansas City, which it currently is not, Chattanooga will maintain its leadership position in community-wide gigabit service, officials say.
Similar to EPB's price, the new Google service would charge about $70 per month for just high-speed Internet service. A package that bundles the Internet service with more than 100 high-definition television channels costs about $120 per month.
Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB, cautioned that Google has a lot of work to do before its service is actually available in the new cities, but he cheered the announcement, saying it was "better for Chattanooga and better for the country if people have this type of speed."
"You don't want to own the only telephone on the street," DePriest said. "I would be very interested in working with Google. They're an impressive company, and are pushing what I think is the future for the American communications industry."
Currently, Google's blueprint is tentative because the Internet advertiser needs to work out logistics with government leaders in the communities where it hopes to build the networks needed to deliver its service. The company hopes to provide updates by the end of the year.
The plans are the clearest sign yet that Google, already the world's most powerful Internet company, intends to become a bigger player in providing access to the Internet, too.
Google's ownership of some the Internet's most lucrative advertising networks and heavily trafficked services such its YouTube video site gives the company a powerful incentive to make it more affordable and enjoyable to spend time online. The company is hoping it can make more money from ads and other services if faster connections and a proliferation of computing devices can make the Internet even more addictive than it already is for tens of millions of people.
With Google Fiber, people can surf the Internet at a speed of one gigabit per second, up to 100 times faster than cable and DSL broadband services. Prices for the service are comparable or below what most households already pay.
Launched as an experimental project in 2010, Google Fiber is only available in three cities so far: Kansas City, Kan.; Kansas City, Mo. and Provo, Utah. It's coming to Austin, Texas sometime this year.
Google's expansion would provide more competition to existing broadband carriers, including cable giant Comcast Corp., which last week announced plans to buy another major Internet service provider in Time Warner Cable Inc. Google says the announcement of its expansion isn't tied to Comcast's proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable, a deal already facing resistance from consumer rights groups worried that the combination will drive up prices for broadband cable TV.
If Google realizes its goal, the company will provide high-speed Internet service in these cities: Phoenix; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Tempe, Ariz.; San Jose, Calif.; Santa Clara, Calif.; Sunnyvale, Calif.; Mountain View, Calif.; Palo Alto, Calif.; Atlanta; Avondale Estates, Ga.; Brookhaven, Ga.; College Park, Ga.; Decatur, Ga.; East Point, Ga.; Hapeville, Ga.; Sandy Springs, Ga.; Smyrna, Ga.; Nashville, Tenn.; Charlotte, N.C.; Carrboro, Cary, N.C.; Chapel Hill, N.C.; Durham, N.C.; Garner, N.C.; Morrisville, N.C.; Raleigh, N.C.; Portland, Ore.; Beaverton, Ore.; Hillsboro, Ore.; Gresham, Ore.' Lake Oswego, Ore; Tigard, Ore.; San Antonio; and Salt Lake City.