Google Fiber: 9 Things to Expect if it Comes to Portland

Delays, the fiber rabbit and a bit of disruption are just a few things Portland will experience should Google bring the hyperfast Internet service there.

by Mike Rogoway, The Oregonian / December 9, 2014

(TNS) -- Kansas City has had Google Fiber for more than two years. Its experience gives Portland some clues on what to expect should Google bring the hyperfast Internet service here. A decision could come any day.

Some things to anticipate

Delays: Google Fiber has said it could make a decision on serving Portland by the end of this year and that parts of the area could have service in 2015. But the company's operation in Kansas City has been plagued by delays from the start. Google extended the deadline for selecting Kansas City as its first market, then delayed the start of service, and has repeatedly extended signup deadlines in neighborhoods around the city. Officials in Kansas City say delays are to be expected given the scale of the buildout (Google has run at least 7,000 miles of fiber there) and issues securing rights of way and utility pole access for its network.

Rabbits: Most people associate Google with the colorful logo on its home page, but in Kansas City, Google's "fiber rabbit" is everywhere. Adorned in Google's rainbow color scheme, fiber rabbits pop up in front yards where the company is contemplating service, on the service trucks that seem ubiquitous zooming around town, and in a big, colorful rabbit statue at the front door of Google's Kansas City "fiber space."

Fiber rallies: Google says it will pick neighborhoods to serve based on the number of homes in a given area that sign up for service within a given period of time. In Kansas City, it's held ice cream socials and handed out cardboard fiber rabbits for people to place in their yards to encourage neighbors to sign up.

Apartment issues: Even if Google Fiber comes to your neighborhood, if you rent an apartment service availability will depend on whether your landlord signs up. Many buildings already have exclusive arrangements with existing Internet service providers; in Kansas City, buildings in poorer parts of town are much less likely to have service.

Transparent pricing: Google Fiber isn't cheap – in Kansas City it's $70 for gigabit broadband service, or $120 for a combination of TV and Internet. The cable TV/Internet bundle is $10 more in Austin. (Google offers a free, 5 megabit per second downloads to customers who pay a $300, one-time "construction" fee.) So Google's standard pricing is higher than many rival services, but Google's speeds are faster, its cable TV comes in high-def with a built-in DVR, and Google doesn't hide its prices behind temporary, introductory rates.

Installation: Google Fiber uses existing coaxial cable inside homes wired for cable TV. It installs Ethernet wiring in homes that do not. The company says installation is typically complete within a day.

Disruption: Verizon generated scores of complaints when it dug up yards around Washington County several years ago to bury fiber-optic cables for its FiOS TV and Internet service. Frontier now owns that conduit and says it won't open it to Google, so if Google Fiber comes to Washington County expect yards to be dug up again. Kansas City residents have frequently complained of torn-up lawns and flowerbeds, and Google has set up a hotline to help resolve issues with its contractors there. Disruptions may be less severe in Portland and other communities with existing utility poles, but Google may still need to trim trees to reach the poles and will have to bring in utility trucks to string the fiber overhead.

No zombies (And maybe no Blazers): Google Fiber's TV service in Kansas City includes most popular cable networks and has options for premium channels and sports tiers, including the Pac-12 network (along with regional conference networks from other parts of the country). But it doesn't include AMC, which televises the hugely popular "Walking Dead." And Google would have to work out a contract with Comcast SportsNet to carry the Portland Trail Blazers. Some subscription TV services, including Frontier, have reached deals for Portland's NBA franchise but others – notably DirecTV and DISH – have not.

Speed: Google Fiber delivers the speeds it promises. Apps are snappier, downloads are quicker and streaming video is sharper – you'll be able to watch select YouTube videos in the new, ultra-HD "4K" standard (provided you have a TV or monitor that can display it). Even so, gigabit service is overkill for almost everyone...for now. Internet evangelists say fiber is future-proofing homes in Kansas City, ensuring they'll be ready 5 or 10 years from now when new online services place greater demands on home networks.

©2014 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)

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