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Google Fiber Launches in Backbone of North Carolina: Morrisville

Starting Sept. 13, Morrisville residents and small businesses can sign up online or by phone for a handful of Google Fiber services, including Internet, television and phone.

by Paul A. Specht, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) / September 13, 2016
Screenshot taken from Google Fiber

(TNS) -- After more than a year of crews digging up yards and eager customers wearing specially made “#FiberIsComing” T-shirts, Google Fiber has finally arrived in the Triangle.

The highly anticipated high-speed internet service is making its local debut at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Morrisville. Now the Wake County town of 23,000 people is a pioneer for a new wave of the technological future, where customers have more options for internet providers.

For years, Time Warner Cable has had a firm market hold in the area. But AT&T is already signing up customers for its high-speed service, and now Google Fiber is here.

Morrisville Mayor Mark Stohlman said residents have been asking him “at least every other day” when Google Fiber would launch. The fast-growing town near Research Triangle Park seemed to him a natural place for the service to begin.

“If you have to start somewhere, start with a community that’s high-tech and looking for choices,” Stohlman said. “I think (Google Fiber) will be pleasantly busy with all the demands once they open their gates.”

Google Fiber announced 19 months ago it was coming to seven Triangle municipalities: Raleigh, Durham, Morrisville, Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill and Garner.

The company decided to launch first in Morrisville because it is home to Google Fiber’s “digital backbone,” said Erik Garr, head of operations in the Triangle, referring to a major network hub.

“It was purely an engineering decision,” Garr said. “Our connection to our national backbone is in Morrisville. Our engineering team correctly wanted to start closest to the source.”

Starting Tuesday, Morrisville residents and small businesses can sign up online or by phone for a handful of Google Fiber services, including internet, television and phone. They have until Nov. 1 to sign up.

It’s unclear when customers in the other municipalities will have access to the services.

Morrisville, an 8-square-mile town between Raleigh and Durham, is one of the most affluent communities in the Triangle, and one of the fastest growing. Many of its residents work in Research Triangle Park, home to technology and pharmaceutical companies. The median household income is $84,000, according to census data.

Google Fiber’s arrival could spur competition among providers.

The company offers residential customers speeds of 1,000 megabits per second for $70 a month. That’s fast enough to download a high-definition movie in seven seconds.

AT&T offers the same speed at the same price. Time Warner Cable offers speeds of up to 300 mbps for $64 a month.

Google Fiber also has an option for $50 a month for residential customers. At a speed of 100 mbps, a user could download a high-definition movie in six minutes. The company also offers a bundled fiber-television service for $140 a month.

Smaller companies are trying to get into the Triangle action, too.

Frontier Communications currently offers services to some Durham residents, according to company spokesman Bob Elek. The company offers 24 mbps for $54 a month.

Ting Internet, a division of Toronto-based Tucows Inc., is taking pre-orders for its fiber service in Holly Springs and hopes to connect customers by the end of the year. The price: $89 a month for 1,000 mbps.

Expansion

As Google Fiber launches in the Triangle, the company has plans to delay fiber service in San Jose, Calif., and Portland, Ore.

Garr on Monday declined to comment on the company’s long-term strategy. He said Google Fiber has made big moves recently, making its services available in three other metro areas: Atlanta, Salt Lake City and Charlotte.

With its presence in the Triangle, Google Fiber is now in seven metropolitan areas across the country.

“In the last two months, we’ve opened in four new markets, which we’re very excited about,” Garr said.

The Highland Creek neighborhood in Charlotte was the first North Carolina neighborhood with access to Google Fiber.

Many customers are happy with the service, said Robert Valencia, president of the neighborhood homeowners association. But it’s come at a cost of his neighborhood’s landscape.

“I don’t know if it’s a lack of communication between Google and their contractors or what,” Valencia said. “But we have a very high-tech irrigation system here ... They kept breaking and breaking sprinkler heads.”

Valencia didn’t sign up for Google Fiber. He’s waiting for AT&T to come to the neighborhood because he thinks the company will offer a “more stable” experience.

Still, based on the feedback he’s heard from Google Fiber customers, he thinks the trouble was worth it. Neighbors were tired of having only one provider, Time Warner Cable, in the area.

“We didn’t have a choice before,” he said. “Now we do.”

©2016 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.