Google Fiber Expanding in the Everglade State

Google has been looking into several cities in Florida, most notable being Tampa and Jacksonville, to broaden their Google Fiber network.

by Mark Wolfenbarger, Tampa Tribune; Drew Dixon, The Florida Times-Union / October 29, 2015

(TNS) -- Tech giant Google has honed in on Tampa and Jacksonville as two of nine U.S. cities where it wants to launch its near-light speed Google Fiber TV and Internet service, a move that could spur other providers to lower prices and increase their Internet speeds.

The tech giant announced Wednesday it will begin an evaluation of the two cities as suitable markets for the fiber optic-based service that comes with Internet speeds of 1,000 megabits per second, roughly 100 times faster than average Internet connections.

Google Fiber has only been installed in three U.S. cities to date, most recently in Austin, Texas, where residents can get 1,000 megabits Internet speed and 150 high-definition TV channels for about $130 per month. A slower, Internet-only service is free after a one-time $300 fee.

The service’s arrival typically results in better deals for consumers, said Brien Bell, Google’s regional expansion lead.

“When we’ve announced we’re building a network, we’ve seen speeds go up and prices go down, which we think is great,” Bell said.

Google’s interest in Tampa is due to its thriving entrepreneurial sector and because the city is working to bring Internet connectivity to its poorest residents, Bell said. Tampa was one of 28 cities chosen in July for ConnectHome, a federal program to provide Internet access for children in low-income households.

“One of our goals with Google Fiber is to equip engineers and entrepreneurs with super-fast gigabit Internet speeds to see what technologies they can develop so they can help shape the future of the Internet,” Bell said.

As for Jacksonville, Jill Szuchmacher, director of expansion of Google Fiber, said the company will not seek any incentives, subsidies or tax breaks from the city if it agrees to allow the installation of the fiber optic network. The company sees Jacksonville as a valuable market that has fostered a “growing tech-hub” and is developing an entrepreneurial business community.

“This is a huge infrastructure project to bring all new fiber infrastructure all at once. This planning process helps us to break it down into a manageable plan of next steps which is not only useful to us but for the city in terms of the administrative challenges of facilitating a build like this,” Szuchmacher said.

The company has no permits from the city and Szuchmacher declined to disclose the estimated cost of the project that could take another year and a half before service begins to paying customers, if the city gives the go ahead for the project.

Google Fiber would not be the first company to offer gigabit service in Jacksonville. Comcast instituted 2 Gigabit Pro in July and that transfers data at about two thousand megabits per second.

In fact, the Comcast service is already available for about 1.3 million Florida customers in the Comcast markets of Jacksonville, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Oklahoma City and Phoenix are among the other cities Google is evaluating as potential markets. Nashville, Tennessee, Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte, South Carolina, Atlanta and San Antonio have already been chosen to get the service.

The United States is only 20th in the world when it comes to Internet speeds, according to Google, and fiber-optic Internet is delivered to less than 10 percent of U.S. homes.

Unlike other Internet providers, Google says it runs the fiber cable directly to each home and business instead of running the final leg from switchboards to homes through copper cables.

“Faster speeds mean more opportunities for innovation and development,” Bell said. “We know that great things can happen when a community upgrades to a gigabit network.”

©2015 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.) and ©2015 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.