Monday, 1 December 2014

It’s Fiber Monday in Austin!

Access to abundant, super fast Internet can open up new opportunity for communities — and from the day we announced our plans to build in Austin, the city has embraced the possibilities that will come from Internet that's up to 100 times faster than today's basic speeds. Today we’re kicking off Google Fiber signups for Austinites, their neighbors, and local small businesses in the South and Southeast areas of the city. This is just the beginning. We’ll be opening new areas of the city for signups on an ongoing basis, and we hope to bring Fiber to every neighborhood in Austin that wants it.

Google Fiber vans have arrived in Austin
Whether you’re in a home, apartment, or a small business, you’ll notice that getting Google Fiber is a little different. We don’t choose which areas get Fiber — you and your neighbors do. Last year I shared an early look at how this will work; now you’ll be able to see this process live so that you know how many more people need to sign up in order to bring Fiber to your neighborhood.
For Austinites in neighborhoods (or ‘fiberhoods’ as we call them) that are open for signups, you can choose one of three Google Fiber plans.

Small businesses in the same group of fiberhoods can sign up for up to gigabit speeds for $100 per month through the Early Access Program for Google Fiber for Small Business. Austin is already booming with ambitious and creative entrepreneurs, and we can’t wait to see what small businesses do with Fiber.

Keep in mind: you’ll have a limited window of time to sign up. We do this so that we can bring you Google Fiber as quickly as possible. We focus our efforts on one neighborhood at a time, doing an all-out installation blitz if your fiberhood meets its signup goal. After we’re finished in your fiberhood, we’ll move on to the next. Be sure to check your sign up deadline so you don’t miss us when we’re in your part of town.

Want to learn more about Google Fiber? Today we’re opening our Fiber Space in downtown Austin. Drop by and take Google Fiber for a spin, sign up for service, and see firsthand why speed matters. The Fiber Space is also a gathering place for the Austin community, so be sure to check out the schedule of events happening this month.


Thanks for having us, Austin. We've already heard from many of you what you would do with super fast Internet speeds — we’re excited for all of these possibilities and more. We look forward to seeing you around town.

Posted by Mark Strama, Head of Google Fiber, Austin

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Unlocking the Connection for Austin’s public housing residents

For Austin's public housing residents, access to the Internet can mean the difference between keeping up or falling behind. It can mean more resident children using computers in after-school programs and robotics clubs, more students using a home computer to finish their homework as their peers do, more working adults completing online GED training modules at home, and more seniors participating in basic computer skills workshops.

That’s why today, the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA) is launching Unlocking the Connection, a homegrown Austin initiative to help close the digital divide for the 4,300 people who live in public housing. Unlocking the Connection addresses the full set of resources needed to make the Web more available and relevant to Austinites who aren’t online today — an affordable Internet connection, access to devices, basic computer skills training, and opportunities to better understand how they can use the Web in their daily lives. HACA has brought together more than 20 national and local partners, including Google Fiber, to play a role in the program.

We started talking with HACA after the City of Austin selected its Booker T. Washington training center as a site to receive Google Fiber as part of our Community Connections program. That conversation, and the many that followed, demonstrated that HACA had an ambitious vision for a digital inclusion program — one that was deeply rooted in the often complex reasons that people weren’t yet online — and that there was a natural way that Google Fiber could help.

Google Fiber will bring state of the art infrastructure to Austin's public housing; we will provide a free fiber connection to any existing HACA property in a neighborhood that meets its signup goal to get Google Fiber. If a family in one of these properties signs up for our Basic Service, they get an in-home Internet connection at today’s basic broadband speeds, free for ten years after construction, They can also upgrade and pay for gigabit speeds anytime. In addition, we’re providing computers to HACA education and training centers, as well as funding Austin Free-Net, a local nonprofit, to provide digital literacy training in HACA properties. Along with the contributions of dozens of other partners — foundations, corporations, educational institutions — this support can advance HACA’s vision to bring more of its residents online.

Google Fiber is making a long-term investment in each city where we build — including Austin, where digital inclusion is a citywide priority. Here and in any city, our approach is shaped by potential partners, the cues of local leaders, and the unique needs of residents. Unlocking the Connection is the result of the collaboration and commitment of the Austin community — it’s driven by HACA’s vision, supported by local leaders, and engages the talents of community organizations. We’re proud to work hand-in-hand with all of these partners to help create a more connected Austin.

Posted by Parisa Fatehi-Weeks, Community Impact Manager, Google Fiber Austin

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

A next step for Google Fiber and small business

A super-fast Internet connection can have a big impact on unlocking new possibilities for small businesses. From the start, small business owners have told us that they want Google Fiber to help them move faster, work better together, reach new parts of the world without boarding a plane, and save time for the important things—like growing their business.

Now we’re taking another step to speed up the Internet for small businesses—today, we’re kicking off an Early Access Program for Google Fiber for Small Business in select areas of central Kansas City. And whether a business uses their connection to move to the cloud, get closer to customers on Hangouts, or bring more transactions online, we’re excited to see what happens when Kansas City businesses say farewell to slow speeds and hello to all the tools and technologies that they need to grow.

The Early Access Program is available today in a handful of fiberhoods in Kansas City, KS and Kansas City, MO. Small businesses in these areas can sign up for a gigabit Internet connection and be among the very first businesses to get Google Fiber. Though not all areas of central Kansas City are open for signups just yet, we’ll keep you posted as we expand. Small businesses can visit our website to get more details, register for email updates, and be the first to know when they can sign up.

First fiberhoods with Early Access for small businesses in Kansas City, KS

First fiberhoods with Early Access for small businesses in Kansas City, MO

Earlier this year, we started a pilot in Kansas City to learn more about what business owners need. We heard from documentary filmmakers, flower shops, web development agencies, and more. All of these small businesses have a lot of ideas on how a faster Internet connection could speed up their entire business — we can’t wait to see what they do with Google Fiber.

We know that small businesses play a big part in Provo and Austin, too. And while we don’t have specific plans for small businesses in other cities right now, we’ll be sure to share updates when we can.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Kansas City: Now Home to the Fastest Starbucks Wi-Fi in the U.S.

At the corner of 41st and Main Street, a Kansas City Starbucks is teeming with people writing emails, streaming music, sharing videos, and more. Now that same Starbucks—one of the busiest in Kansas City—is the first to be connected directly to Google Fiber, so anyone visiting the store can get super-fast Internet with their Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Kansas City now has the fastest Wi-Fi at any Starbucks in the U.S.
At this Starbucks, visitors can connect to supercharged Wi-Fi through their wireless devices, so they can skim the morning headlines while they order or enjoy a cup of joe. There are also new community tables, which have Chromebooks wired directly to Google Fiber, as well as built-in wireless charging technology to power up devices. With these new connections, there’s plenty of bandwidth for everyone to search, stream, and share—without the loading bars or buffering.

Community tables come equipped with Chromebooks connected directly to Google Fiber
Along with fast Internet for the whole community, this store features a digital take on the Starbucks community board, so anyone can find and share local news, upcoming events, special offers and more. If you live nearby or are passing through town, be sure to swing by 41st and Main Street and check it out.

The digital community board makes it easy to find and share local news and events
This isn’t the first time Google and Starbucks have teamed up to bring high-quality Wi-Fi to Starbucks patrons. Last year, Google and Starbucks announced a new effort to bring speedy Wi-Fi access to 7,000 Starbucks stores across the U.S—we’re well on our way, with more than half of locations connected. Connecting this Kansas City Starbucks to Google Fiber is a next step to bring more people an extra shot of Internet speed.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Digital Inclusion: a Long-term Investment

Ed note: In this installment of our Google Fiber Behind the Scenes series, Erica Swanson, head of community impact programs for Google Fiber, shares what she‘s learned about the challenges that communities face in closing the digital divide, and what her team does to help.

Because of the Internet, we have access to more information than at any other time in history. With a few clicks, we can find answers to simple questions (“how to boil an egg”) or explore complicated topics (“Is Pluto a planet?”). And more than ever, the Internet connects us to opportunity — it’s where we go to prepare homework assignments, apply to college, or look for a job. But with roughly 60 million people not yet using the Internet, the U.S. still has a long way to go before everyone is connected.

Unfortunately, while the effects of this digital divide are easy to see, the solutions are less obvious. This is a long-term, complex problem — and creating change requires time, a sustained commitment, and close collaboration with local partners who can make progress day by day.

When people are asked why they don’t have the Internet, they cite reasons you’d expect, such as cost (19% of non-Internet users). But research also shows that 34% of people who don’t use the Internet don’t yet see it as relevant to their lives, and 32% cite usability as an obstacle. The good news is that cities, community organizations, and Internet service providers like Google Fiber are working to address these issues by making digital inclusion a local priority, finding new ways to collaborate, and meeting non-Internet users where they are.

My team and I recently visited all nine of the metro areas where we are considering expanding Google Fiber. Well before the first fiber is laid, we wanted to meet with city and community leaders to start exploring how we can work together to connect more people. So much of what we heard and saw was inspiring: an “Anytime Access for All” initiative in Nashville; Avenida Guadalupe’s computer basics classes in San Antonio; and CFY Atlanta’s Digital Learning Program are just a few examples.

These visits were also a chance for us to share how we can build on the good work that local leaders are already doing:

Make the Internet more affordable
Google Fiber offers people one of the most affordable ways to get online, and it’s available to anyone in a fiberhood who wants it — regardless of income. In existing markets, we offer a connection to basic Internet speeds for just a $300 construction fee (or $25/month for 12 months). Homes then get free Internet for seven years, which comes out to a savings of about $900 over seven years compared to other basic offerings. For people in apartment buildings whose landlords sign up for Fiber, the service is completely free. Importantly, Fiber helps people “future-proof” their home Internet — anyone who signs up for our basic service can switch up to gigabit speeds anytime.

Make access a part of the community
For many people, public computing centers and community organizations serve as the on-ramp to the Internet. We’re hooking up hundreds of neighborhood institutions through our Community Connections program so people in Google Fiber cities have a place where they can get access to gigabit speeds, even if they don’t yet want the Internet at home.

Show people why the Internet matters
Our rally model, which asks fiberhoods to come together to meet a registration goal for Fiber, sends us out into communities to talk one-on-one with people about how the Internet can be useful in their daily lives. In Kansas City’s Blue Hills neighborhood, Google Fiber and neighbors came together to rally for Fiber in 2012. Recently in Provo, we partnered with the United Way to spread the word in low-income areas and encourage people to sign up. National broadband experts say this hyper-local outreach is helping to spur demand and interest in the Internet.

Teach people how to get online
Working with partners, we create programs that help people learn how to do things like power on a computer, use a search engine, or open an email account. For example, in Kansas City, Provo and Austin, we’re working with local universities to build teams of digital literacy trainers through our Community Leaders Program. We recruit and train college students, then match them with local organizations to run digital literacy programs in the community. And in Kansas City, Google joined local companies to help launch the Digital Inclusion Fund to support local nonprofits and community organizations that are helping people take full advantage of the Internet.

Google Fiber started with a goal to make the Web faster — for everyone. We also have a goal to make it more affordable, more relevant, and more useful. It takes a lot more than wires to bridge the digital divide, and we can’t do it alone. We don’t expect to. Instead, we’re working alongside partners to chip away at the problem and get more people connected.

PS — We're looking for Community Impact Managers now in a number of cities. Interested? Find more info here.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Pardon Our Dust in Austin

Hey Austin, have you seen us around town lately? Our Google Fiber crews are now in the process of building a high-speed network that will one day include more than 3,000 miles of brand new, state-of-the-art fiber optic cables — enough to stretch across the longest Interstate highway in the U.S. (or from Boston to Seattle).

Since we don’t use any existing copper cables, we’ve been planning and designing our network from scratch. Today we have a detailed network plan in place and our crews are hard at work constructing the network, starting with the core infrastructure that will form the foundation of Google Fiber in Austin.

Over time, our network will grow to thousands of miles of fiber, stretching through underground conduit as well as across utility poles. That’s why we have crews that specialize in both underground and aerial construction — here’s a peek at what they’re doing today.

Our underground crews operate powerful drills that can tunnel through Austin’s limestone, guiding a bore head through the earth to create an underground path for our conduit, then running fiber through the conduit. While we wish we had x-ray vision (we're working on it!), our crew members work hard as a team to avoid existing infrastructure and utilities, calling in “locates” with Texas 811 and using everything from detailed city diagrams to sonar detection to help.

Meanwhile, aerial crews are doing work across thousands of Austin utility poles, reconfiguring communications and power lines to ensure we have room for our fiber. This work allows us to use existing infrastructure and avoid additional underground construction, which tends to be more disruptive to the community.
A steerable bore head helps create the path to run fiber underground

Making room for Google Fiber on Austin's utility poles
Underground or in the air, pardon our dust — in order to bring Google Fiber to a city, a whole lot of heavy lifting has to happen! We are working to build our fiber network in Austin with as much efficiency and as little disruption as possible, but this size of a construction effort is bound to affect a few Austinites day-to-day.

Longer term, we hope this infrastructure will play a big role in the city’s future. Gigabit Internet speeds will open up new possibilities for the way we use the Web, and Austin is well on its way to showing the world how it thinks big with a gig.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Gigabit Enthusiasm: an economic reality

Ed. Note: we’re often asked about the economic impact of fiber networks — what does a gig really do for a local economy? To help answer your questions, we have a guest post from Heather Burnett Gold, President of the Fiber to the Home Council Americas, and Dr. David Sosa, a Principal at the Analysis Group. Today they are sharing the findings of a first-of-its-kind research report on the economic impact of fiber-to-the-home networks in U.S. communities.

While many people think of gigabit internet as essential to the future of the Web, others have wondered if these fiber networks just might be too fast, too soon. Based on early evidence of the economic impact of fiber-fed, gigabit services, we believe that the time for gigabit skepticism is over.

Today the Fiber-to-the-Home Council Americas (FTTH Council) released a first-of-its-kind study — Early Evidence Suggests Gigabit Broadband Drives GDP — which looked at 55 communities in 9 states and found a positive impact on economic activity in the 14 communities where gigabit Internet services are widely available. In fact, these gigabit broadband communities exhibited a per capita GDP approximately 1.1 percent higher than the 41 similar communities with little to no availability of gigabit services.

This may not sound like much but consider this: in dollar terms, our research suggests that the 14 gigabit broadband communities studied enjoyed approximately $1.4 billion in additional GDP when gigabit broadband became widely available. (That’s enough money to buy the Buffalo Bills — if you wanted to).

Our study suggests that as gigabit services become available in more communities, the impact on economies and consumers is likely to be substantial. Indeed, if the 41 communities in our study without gigabit broadband were to adopt the new service, they could expect as much as $3.3 billion in incremental GDP. And we are not alone in this perspective; the ratings agency Fitch underscored this point when it upgraded Kansas City, Missouri’s bond ratings, noting that the gigabit to the home fiber network “[…] has the potential to make a significant economic impact.”

The deployment of widespread ultra-high bandwidth broadband offers great promise for our economic future, similar to the way that access to abundant electricity transformed the country, lighting up factories to produce affordable consumer goods and automobiles for transportation. The availability of electricity spurred an era of high productivity and economic growth. And now, we are beginning to see that access to abundant bandwidth is likely to have a similarly positive impact on our economy.

Widespread gigabit availability contributes to the economy in multiple ways. Investment in physical infrastructure and labor creates jobs and increases expenditures into inputs like electronics and fiber optic cable. But next generation broadband infrastructure can also shift economic activity, sparking local tech scenes and the relocation of businesses. Claris Networks moved its data center operations from Knoxville to Chattanooga to take advantage of its fiber network. Lafayette's network attracted Hollywood special effects company Pixel Magic to the community, because the high performance gigabit network lets Pixel Magic move computer files back and forth between Lafayette and California quickly. And from the Hacker House in Kansas City to Fargo’s Startup House in Fargo, North Dakota, local entrepreneurs are using gigabit networks to develop new applications and services, bringing in new investment and talent along the way.

In the last several years, communities, their leaders and several private companies have made moves to stimulate and support our economy by upgrading our networks to gigabit capabilities. They, and we, remain gigabit enthusiasts, willing to welcome the skeptics to help us make gigabit communities a priority.

Posted by Heather Burnett Gold, the FTTH Council and Dr. David Sosa, the Analysis Group

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A World Record for Provo

Kissing puppies and llamas, painting bricks for a local art project, shooting free throws at the rec center, donating canned goods, and performing on a karaoke stage: all of this (and much more!) was part of a historic day this past weekend in Provo, Utah.

Google Fiber joined the broader Provo community in an effort to shatter the official world record for the largest scavenger hunt, as determined by Guinness World Records. And shatter it the city did — the previous record of 924 is history, with a total of 2,079 “hunters” finishing the Passport to Provo challenge on Saturday, September 13.

Along with Provo Mayor John Curtis, Downtown Provo and Cotopaxi (a local outdoor gear and apparel company), Google Fiber supported the event to help bring together thousands of Provoans to explore and celebrate their downtown.
Mayor John Curtis rallies Provo hunters while Guinness World Records looks on
Under the watchful eye of Annie, our judge from Guinness World Records, teams of hunters — groups of families, friends and students — filled Provo streets, businesses, nonprofit organizations, community parks and historical landmarks to complete the challenge.

Hunters completed at least 15 tasks from categories such as Downtown Culture, Quirky and Fun, Outdoor and Adventure, Community Service and Local Business. The event ended with a party with performances by local Provo talent.

Watch this video to see all the fun and don’t forget: this week is the last chance for anyone in a Provo fiberhood to get Fiber for $30 — sign up by September 20th. After this wave of sign-ups and installations, our construction fee will increase from $30 to its usual $300 at our next sign-up opportunity.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Kicking off sign-ups in Johnson County, Kansas

Despite this sticky midwest summer, our Fiber construction and installation crews are making good progress here in KC. We’ve completed over 7,000 miles of construction, recently started installing service for new customers in and around the northern and southern parts of Kansas City — and now we’re ready to keep rolling out into the surrounding Johnson County area!

Starting today, residents in Westwood, Westwood Hills, Mission Woods and Roeland Park can start signing up for Google Fiber. To see whether your home is in one of these areas, go to our website at google.com/fiber and enter your address. If you’re eligible in this round of sign-ups, you’ll be able to select which Fiber package you want. Remember, you’ll only be able to sign-up for a limited time — from now until September 12th — so make sure you choose your plan sooner rather than later. This will help us to get installations started as quickly as possible.

We’re also giving residents in our original group of qualified fiberhoods — in Kansas City, Kan. and Central Kansas City, Mo. — another chance to sign-up for service. Between now and August 7th, you can go to our website and select your Fiber package.

Of course, as always, we’ll be out and about in the community to answer your questions and help you sign up for service. Over the next few weeks, we hope to see you at one of our events:

Summer Block Party - Join us for some family fun in the sun outside the Fiber Space. From face painting to cotton candy, we'll have something for everyone.
Saturday, July 12, 1pm-5pm @ The Google Fiber Space

Happy hour with Google Fiber - Enjoy a drink or two on us, plus appetizers and live music by Heather Thornton as we toast to gigabit speeds and summertime fun.
Thursday, July 17, 6pm-8pm @ The Legendary Rooftop (located on 2nd floor of garage)

Google Fiber Birthday Celebration - Google Fiber is turning 2, and we want to celebrate with you! Bring your family for face painting, cotton candy, cupcakes, tunes by DJ Robert DeGeorge, and more.
Saturday, July 26, 12pm-4pm @ The Google Fiber Space

Fiber Space Saturday - We're kicking off the weekend with activities for the whole family at the Fiber Space. From face painting to music by DJ Shaun Flo, we'll have something for everyone.
Saturday, August 2, 12pm-4pm @ The Google Fiber Space

Happy Hour with Google Fiber Wednesday, August 6, 6pm-8pm @ The Cashew

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Re-opening Fiber sign-ups in Provo: $30 through September

A hardcover book; a single lawn chair; half a tank of gas; a shirt... it turns out $30 can’t buy all that much these days. That’s why we were excited to offer residents fiber connections in their home, plus at least 7 years of free Internet, for just a $30 installation fee.

Fiber actually costs quite a bit more than $30 to install in a home; in Kansas City, for example, we charge $300. But Provo was looking for a partner that would help keep their vision — affordable, high-speed service for residents — alive. So we promised to offer a fiber connection, plus our Free Internet plan, for $30 to everyone who signed up for our first wave of local installations.

So far, many people have taken advantage of this. However, we’ve also heard from some of you who missed your deadline to get the $30 Fiber — you either moved to a new neighborhood, or you just didn’t know that you needed to sign up by a certain date — and you’ve asked us for another chance to get service. So from now until September 20th, we’re re-opening signups for Fiber; anyone in a Provo fiberhood can go to our website and sign up.

This is the last chance to get Fiber for $30 — after this wave of sign-ups and installations, our construction fee will probably be closer to the same $300 that we charge in Kansas City. So, if you’re interested in getting Fiber, now’s the time to sign up!

Have questions or want to learn more about Fiber? We’re going to be out and about throughout the community over the next few months and we’d love to chat with you or help you sign up!

July 3, 4, and 5 (10AM-8PM) - Visit our booth at the Freedom Days Festival (we’ll have popsicles, Google Fiber sunglasses, and t-shirts while supplies last!)
July 4 (9AM) - Freedom Festival Grand Parade
July 4 (7PM-10:30PM) - Provo Rooftop Concert Series
July 12 (11AM-2PM) - Family-friendly summer outdoor activities at the Google Fiber Field Day (at Provost Elementary School)
July 17 (6:30PM-10:30PM) - Movie Under the Stars (The Lego Movie!) at Bicentennial Park
July 19 (9AM-2PM) - Provo Farmer’s Market


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Building Connected Communities: A Digital Media Lab for Teens

Ed. Note: Every day, nonprofits and community leaders do inspiring work to help their neighbors build digital literacy skills, get access to affordable computers and more. From time to time, we’ll invite some of these organizations to share a bit about their work on our Google Fiber blog; a few weeks ago, we heard from Arts Tech, and today we’ll hear about a Kansas City Public Library program that teaches digital media skills to local youth. Both Arts Tech and the Library’s new Digital Media Lab are supported in-part by the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund. The Fund has just announced an upcoming deadline for next year’s grant applications, so if your nonprofit is interested in learning more or applying, visit the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation’s website.

When you think about libraries, you may think of books stacked on shelves and quiet spaces to work. You can definitely find those in the Kansas City Public Libraries; but for more than a decade, we have also been adding digital resources. There are hundreds of computers, usually packed with folks reading the news, checking their email, or looking for jobs. And each week, we offer classes on computer and Internet basics. We started these efforts in part to address the “digital divide” — 25 % of Kansas City residents do not have the Internet at home, others don’t use the web at all, and many who do have access are not sure how to use it to their best advantage.

That is particularly true for youth. Often referred to as digital natives, they are not intimidated by technology. Yet we’ve seen that many teens either don’t have Internet access at home, or they have no idea how to translate their interest in digital media into personal and/or professional opportunities for growth. This lack of access and knowledge directly impacts their workforce readiness, since almost all jobs today require some level of expertise with digital resources.

So we asked an advisory board of teens how we could help them and their peers learn more about digital technology. With their feedback, and with funding from the MacArthur Foundation and the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund, we built a new program — the Kansas City Digital Media Lab (KCDML). KCDML teaches teens high-tech digital skills, and provides them with resources and a platform to find their voice and share their stories.

We opened KCDML at our North-East and Southeast library branches last month, and our teens dove right in. In their first project, they shot and edited personal videos using images they captured in the library. Next, they figured out how to use 3D printers to make Mother’s Day gifts. And in another project, we’ve started teaching teens how to code, focusing mostly on website development, game design, and app creation. (Did you know that the number of computer programming jobs in the U.S is expected to jump 30% from 2010 to 2020? Compare that to the average growth of all other U.S. jobs which is predicted to be just 14%. What a useful skill to pick up at your local library!).

Working on these projects and playing with fancy tech gadgets is cool — but the real opportunity for teens is that they get to work with and learn from a great group of adult collaborators. Kansas City is an amazing intersection of tech and creativity. We are a growing tech hub, and businesses in the KC area employ over 34,000 “digital storytelling” jobs — which means that, in addition to our dedicated library staff, we have a number of professionals who are willing to share their expertise in storytelling, coding and more with our youth.

Of course, while this opportunity for 1:1 learning is incredibly valuable, we also want the KCDML to be a place where teens can “geek out” and play on their own — spending time on what is most interesting to them. The idea of freedom within the space, and ownership over the instruction, is an important part of our lab. It gets noisy...It gets messy...But there is interest-based learning, project creation, and growth happening on every level. So far we have gotten great feedback from both the youth and the adults in the space, so we know we’re on the right track. Moving forward we’ll invite even more like-minded Kansas Citians to come out and be a part of the journey. We’ve got a lab, we’re going mobile, and we have a great group of participants and adult collaborators. We are looking forward to a summer full of noisy, geeky, excited exploration!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Behind the scenes with Google Fiber: Working with content providers to minimize buffering

Ed Note: Nobody likes buffering. So we’re trying to reduce it for our Google Fiber customers. Here’s another installment in our “Fiber Behind the Scenes” series, with a look at how we work to get your content to you as quickly as possible.

We’ve all had the moment where we scratch our heads and ask, “why is this video so slow?” Unfortunately, there’s no single answer to this question. Your video ‘packets’ of online bits and bytes have to travel a really long way, along several different networks, just to get to you, and they could be slowed down anywhere. So, because we know you want to stream videos and browse effortlessly, we’ve designed our network to minimize buffering.

Bringing fiber all the way to your home is only one piece of the puzzle. We also partner with content providers (like YouTube, Netflix, and Akamai) to make the rest of your video’s journey shorter and faster. (This doesn't involve any deals to prioritize their video ‘packets’ over others or otherwise discriminate among Internet traffic — we don't do that.)

Like other Internet providers, Google Fiber provides the ‘last-mile’ Internet connection to your home. Meanwhile, content providers spend a lot of money (many billions of dollars) building their own networks to transport their content all the way to those ‘last-mile’ connections. In that process, the content may run into bottlenecks — if the connections between the content provider and our network are slow or congested, that will slow down your access to content, no matter how fast your connection is.

So that your video doesn’t get caught up in this possible congestion, we invite content providers to hook up their networks directly to ours. This is called ‘peering,’ and it gives you a more direct connection to the content that you want.

We have also worked with services like Netflix so that they can ‘colocate’ their equipment in our Fiber facilities. What does that mean for you? Usually, when you go to Netflix and click on the video that you want to watch, your request needs to travel to and from the closest Netflix data center, which might be a roundtrip of hundreds or thousands of miles. Instead, Netflix has placed their own servers within our facilities (in the same place where we keep our own video-on-demand content). Because the servers are closer to where you live, your content will get to you faster and should be a higher quality.

We give companies like Netflix and Akamai free access to space and power in our facilities and they provide their own content servers. We don’t make money from peering or colocation; since people usually only stream one video at a time, video traffic doesn’t bog down or change the way we manage our network in any meaningful way — so why not help enable it?

But we also don’t charge because it’s really a win-win-win situation. It’s good for content providers because they can deliver really high-quality streaming video to their customers. For example, because Netflix colocated their servers along our network, their customers can access full 1080p HD and, for those who own a 4K TV, Netflix in Ultra HD 4K. It’s good for us because it saves us money (it’s easier to transport video traffic from a local server than it is to transport it thousands of miles). But most importantly, we do this because it gives Fiber users the fastest, most direct route to their content. That way, you can access your favorite shows faster. All-in-all, these arrangements help you experience the best access to content on the Internet — which is the whole point of getting Fiber to begin with!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Checking in on the checklist

Back in February, we started working side-by-side with 34 cities in nine U.S. metro areas to explore what it would take to bring Google Fiber to their communities. Each city has been busy tackling a checklist of items to help prepare for a big local fiber construction project. We’ve been impressed by the enthusiasm and engagement of every one of these cities, and all of them have, for the most part, completed their checklists.

We say “for the most part” because there’s still a lot of work to do over the next few months. We’ll start by working with cities to tie up some checklist-related loose ends. For example, we worked with city staffers to draft agreements that would let us place fiber huts on city land; several city councils still need to approve these agreements. We may spend some time working together to figure out an ideal permitting process that would be fast and efficient. And, as we review the information that cities have already provided, like infrastructure maps, we’ll probably have a lot of follow-up questions.

There’s also a lot to do beyond the checklist. We’ll need to work with either the city or the state to get something called a video franchise agreement, which would basically grant us permission to build a local network. We may also need pole-attachment agreements with local utilities or other companies who can rent us space on their poles. (Stringing fiber along existing poles is the fastest and least disruptive way to deploy it.)

After all of these steps, we’ll start drawing up construction blueprints for local fiber networks. These detailed designs will help us see how complex it would be to build in each city, and will be used as we make our final decisions.

Finally, don’t be surprised (or get too excited!) if you run into a Google Fiber crew doing work around your town, or see postings for local jobs on our Fiber team; before we make a decision about bringing Fiber to your city, we may do some exploratory work and recruiting so that we’re ready to start construction and operations quickly. We still plan to announce which cities will get Google Fiber by the end of the year.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Building Connected Communities: Arts Tech in Kansas City

Ed. Note: Every day, nonprofits and community leaders across America do inspiring work to help their neighbors learn about the web, build digital literacy skills, get access to affordable computers and more. From time to time, we’ll invite some of these organizations to submit guest posts to our Google Fiber blog — starting today, with Dave Sullivan, the Executive Director of a nonprofit called Arts Tech, in Kansas City. Arts Tech has built a new program to bring together tech-savvy teens and seniors who want to learn about the web.

When I talk to seniors — folks who are 65 or older — about the Internet, I get a mix of reactions. Some of them regularly rely on email, video chats and the web to stay in touch with family and find information. But most seniors I meet have rarely, if ever, used computers or the Internet before.

So last year, when several local companies created the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund, the first-ever pool of money available here for nonprofits who want to close the digital divide, it gave me an idea. Of the people in Kansas City that don’t use the Internet at all, 44% are seniors — there’s a real need there. And on the other hand, 93% of teens use the Internet regularly — which presents a real opportunity. What if we could close a technological and generational gap at the same time?

I pitched the idea of a cross-generational digital literacy training program to the colleagues and students I work with at my nonprofit, Arts Tech. My colleagues were excited by the idea; after all, it fits right in with our mission to help urban teens develop technical skills. But I was really blown away by the excitement and enthusiasm our teens showed. Dozens of them said they’d want to participate in a program like this.

So we applied for, and received, a Digital Inclusion Fund grant — and today, 19 students from Hogan Academy are training to become intergenerational digital literacy experts. After students graduate from this program, they’ll be paired up with local seniors, to help them learn about the web in 1:1 or group training sessions.

This isn’t a walk in the park for these teens; we’ve pulled together a pretty rigorous 60-hour training program. Instead of sleeping in on Saturday mornings, students join us to learn about computer hardware, in-home networking, the Internet and computer software. They’re also learning how to work with seniors, and how to develop their very own digital literacy curriculum (like planning classes on how to create email addresses, and how to use social networks to connect with friends) that they’ll be able to teach by the end of the program.

My ultimate hope for this project is that its spirit of intergenerational learning spreads beyond our lab of laptops. Already, I’ve seen students, seniors and local partners pitch in to make this program happen. We all have a role to play, and working together I really believe that we can build a more digitally-inclusive community in which students, seniors and more are available to continually learn from each other.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Introducing Coffee-to-the-Home

We often hear stories from our customers about how Fiber has become a part of their daily lives — and one of the themes we’ve seen is that Fiber and coffee often go together. Whether folks are watching the morning news or reading email, it turns out that many of them often have a cup of coffee in-hand. This got us thinking — what if we could make it easier and faster for coffee-loving Fiber customers to enjoy both? We consulted java junkies, renowned roasters and cupping connoisseurs across the US and came up with our brand new, Coffee-To-The-Home (CTTH) program.

The key insight behind CTTH is pretty simple: as long as we’re already doing thousands of miles of construction to pull fiber lines throughout cities, why not invest in a coffee network, too? From now on, as we bring fiber throughout a city, we’ll also install pipelines that hook up homes to local baristas via a “hot beverage backbone” (HBB). The HBB will travel in parallel with our FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) network, to deliver CTTH. So, HBB + FTTH = CTTH. Easy.

In order to activate your Coffee-To-The-Home feature (or, in Provo, the “Hot Chocolate-To-The-Home feature), simply download or open your Google Fiber App on your mobile phone or tablet, and click on “Coffee” in the menu. Then, just tap on the beverage you’d like. Your order will be sent to a barista, who will make your drink and transmit it back to you along the HBB. All you have to do is grab your favorite mug, go to your home’s new “Fiber Spout,” turn the nozzle and enjoy your made-to-order drink of choice.

We’re piloting this service on a limited basis for customers now but hope to roll it out to all Google Fiber subscribers soon. For more information, or to sign-up for this new service,visit google.com/fiber/coffee.

Update: April Fools! Unfortunately, we won't be delivering coffee to Fiber customers' homes — for now. But who knows what we'll be able to deliver with a gig in the future?

Monday, 24 March 2014

Provo: new Fiber deadlines are coming up!

If you live here in Provo like me, you’ve known about the benefits of fiber-optic networks for a long time — back in 2000, our city had the vision to build a fiber network when only 3% of Americans had access to the web at home. Unfortunately, not everyone had the chance to get hooked up to the network back them. So now, we’re offering Provo residents the chance to get hooked up to Fiber for a one-time installation fee of $30.

If you want access to high-speed Internet, you can choose the Google Fiber Gigabit Internet plan, which is up to 100 times faster than basic broadband, for $70/month. But if you just want basic Internet — or an affordable fiber connection that will “future proof” your home so you can get faster speeds later — you can get our “Free Internet” plan which will give you basic speeds for just the $30 installation fee, and no monthly cost after that for at least 7 years.

There are a lot of people waiting for Google Fiber, and in order to get to everyone, we’re staggering our installations across 7 different areas in Provo, called “fiberhoods.” This is important: each fiberhood has a deadline by which they need to sign up for Fiber. If you want Fiber in your home, you need to sign up on our website before your fiberhood’s deadline. If you miss your deadline, we don’t currently have plans to reopen sign ups for Fiber in the future — so it’s important that you sign up now. Residents in Pioneer/West Provo need to sign up by this Thursday, March 27. And we just announced deadlines for the final four fiberhoods:

Grandview - Thursday, May 15
North Provo - Thursday, June 12
Southeast Provo - Thursday, July 17
Foothills - Thursday, August 21

Of course, if you have questions about any of this, we’d love to chat. Our Fiber Space, in the Shops at Riverwoods, and our Customer Service Center, at 250 W. Center Street, are set up with demos and are fully staffed with Fiber team members who can help you sign up, or answer your questions. If you can’t visit us in person you can give us a call or chat with us online, 24/7.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

More KC-area residents can sign up for Fiber this afternoon

We’ve already pulled nearly 6,000 miles of our fiber-optic cables throughout Kansas City— that’s about the distance across the Pacific Ocean from the U.S. to China—and now we’re ready to lay down even more! Residents in south Kansas City, Kansas City, north, Grandview, Raytown and Gladstone can start signing up this afternoon to bring Google Fiber to their communities.

In order to make sure you and your neighbors get Fiber, there are only two things you need to do. First, go to our website and sign up. You’ll pay a $10 registration fee, and you can choose one of our three Fiber plans:

Then, it’s time to encourage your neighbors to sign up for Fiber, too! We’ve clustered homes across the KC area into small groupings called ”fiberhoods” (you can see which fiberhood you’re in on our website). Your fiberhood has a goal — a certain number of homes that need to sign up for Google Fiber. You’ll be able to see a real-time count on our website that shows you what your goal is, and how many more people in your fiberhood need to sign-up. If you and your neighbors meet this goal, we’ll aim to bring you Google Fiber by the end of this year. If you don’t meet this goal, we can’t commit to bringing Fiber to your area — which is why if you want super-fast Internet, you should help rally your neighbors to sign-up.

There are lots of ways to spread the word. You can tell your neighbors about Fiber yourself, bring them to one of our events where we can answer any of their questions, or bring them by the Fiber Space in Westport (and now temporarily in Ward Parkway Mall, Santa Fe Center and Red Bridge Shopping Center) to see what Google Fiber is like.

One important note: your fiberhood has a deadline by which you need to reach your signup goal. The deadlines are coming up over the next few weeks, so it’s important to sign up as soon as you can.
• Thursday, April 10 — deadline for residents in 73 fiberhoods in south KCMO, Grandview & Raytown
• Thursday, May 15 — deadline for residents in 33 fiberhoods in KCMO northwest
• Monday, June 19 — deadline for residents in 52 fiberhoods in KCMO northeast and Gladstone

We plan to start hooking up homes in these fiberhoods a few weeks after their deadlines, and expect to have all qualified fiberhoods connected by the end of this year. We are also extending this opportunity to the 21 fiberhoods in central KCMO and KCK that didn’t qualify for Google Fiber in 2012; these fiberhoods will have until June 19 to tell us they want Fiber.

You can help us get to your fiberhood soon, by signing up this afternoon and telling your neighbors to sign-up, too.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Our fiber-ready checklist

This week, our Fiber team traveled to meet with mayors and city officials from each of the 34 cities where we’re exploring the possibility of building Google Fiber. Building a fiber network is a big job, and it requires a lot of advance planning and collaboration — so over the next few months, these cities will be working with us to complete a checklist that will help them become more “fiber-ready.”

You can have a look at the checklist here. We hope any city across America will find these recommendations helpful, whether they’re looking to build and run their own fiber network or attract an existing provider to do it. There’s nothing special or exclusive here for Google Fiber; rather, it’s a compilation of best practices from The Fiber to the Home Council, Gig U, the US Conference of Mayors and other industry experts, and it’s designed to be a practical, actionable roadmap that makes building new networks easier, faster and less disruptive.

This is just the beginning of many conversations with these 34 cities — and it’s already clear that taking the time to get to know each other and talk about these topics now will help them feel prepared for a big construction project, and will help us bring Fiber to more people faster. We’ll continue to share what we learn on this blog, for all of the other cities across America who are interested in what it takes to get ready for a gig.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Exploring new cities for Google Fiber

Over the last few years, gigabit Internet has moved from idea to reality, with dozens of communities (PDF) working hard to build networks with speeds 100 times faster than what most of us live with today. People are hungrier than ever for faster Internet, and as a result, cities across America are making speed a priority. Hundreds of mayors from across the U.S. have stated (PDF) that abundant high-speed Internet access is essential for sparking innovation, driving economic growth and improving education. Portland, Nashville (PDF) and dozens of others have made high-speed broadband a pillar of their economic development plans. And Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, declared in June that every school should have access to gigabit speeds by 2020.

We've long believed that the Internet’s next chapter will be built on gigabit speeds, so it’s fantastic to see this momentum. And now that we’ve learned a lot from our Google Fiber projects in Kansas City, Austin and Provo, we want to help build more ultra-fast networks. So we’ve invited cities in nine metro areas around the U.S.—34 cities altogether—to work with us to explore what it would take to bring them Google Fiber.


We aim to provide updates by the end of the year about which cities will be getting Google Fiber. Between now and then, we’ll work closely with each city’s leaders on a joint planning process that will not only map out a Google Fiber network in detail, but also assess what unique local challenges we might face. These are such big jobs that advance planning goes a long way toward helping us stick to schedules and minimize disruption for residents.

We’re going to work on a detailed study of local factors that could affect construction, like topography (e.g., hills, flood zones), housing density and the condition of local infrastructure. Meanwhile, cities will complete a checklist of items that will help them get ready for a project of this scale and speed. For example, they’ll provide us with maps of existing conduit, water, gas and electricity lines so that we can plan where to place fiber. They’ll also help us find ways to access existing infrastructure—like utility poles—so we don’t unnecessarily dig up streets or have to put up a new pole next to an existing one.

While we do want to bring Fiber to every one of these cities, it might not work out for everyone. 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. In fact, we want to give everyone a boost in their thinking about how to bring fiber to their communities; we plan to share what we learn in these 34 cities, and in the meantime you can check out some tips in a recent guest post on the Google Fiber blog by industry expert Joanne Hovis. Stay tuned for updates, and we hope this news inspires more communities across America to take steps to get to a gig.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

How communities can facilitate fiber construction

Ed. Note: Local governments from across America often ask us about what they can do to prepare their communities for fiber networks. We’ve learned a lot from our work with KC, Austin and Provo — but we were also curious about what a longtime industry expert might recommend. That’s why we turned to Joanne Hovis, a communications policy expert and advocate for the interests of local communities, the President of CTC Technology & Energy and the immediate past president of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA). We asked Joanne to pull together her recommendations on how local communities can become more “fiber-ready.” She recently published this advice (with financial support from us) for local leaders in a paper called Gigabit Communities, and she’s joining us as a guest blogger to talk about her suggestions.

In 2009, city leaders and residents in Chattanooga made a bold decision — they built a new local fiber-optic network so that they could have widespread access to faster broadband. Years later, the decision has paid off; according to the New York Times, the network has helped to create jobs and spur economic growth. This success story is just part of the recent wave of interest in next generation fiber-optic networks that seems to be sweeping the country as local governments are increasingly looking for ways to bring faster broadband and more competition to their communities. Building a network like Chattanooga’s might not be possible everywhere. But there is an alternate option — as an advisor to many communities, I’ve seen that that there are certain steps that cities and counties can take that could help attract fiber companies to build private local networks.

Institute “dig once” policies. When private companies build fiber networks, one of the biggest costs is stringing physical fiber lines throughout an entire community, which requires either digging up streets (to put fiber underground) or installing new utility poles (to string fiber in the air). If localities want to attract fiber providers, they can help to make this future construction much easier by instituting what’s called a “dig once” policy. Every time the city does road maintenance or needs to dig up streets to reach water or sewer pipes, they can install fiber conduit while they’re already down there. Then, they can make that conduit available for providers to lease and pull their fiber through. Not only is this an attractive option to providers who save the time and expense of digging, but it has the added benefit of reducing future disruption for local citizens (who probably don’t want to deal with a future road closure if it can be avoided).

Alternatively, the locality can install large bundles of fiber and make that available to companies or non-profits who want to build state-of-the-art broadband. In our experience, the strategy of building conduit or fiber whenever possible is the single-most powerful, cost-effective step a locality can take to enable new network development.

Compile current info on local infrastructure. Another thing cities and counties can do is to compile a lot of the local infrastructure information they already have — like where existing utilities are — and make that data accessible to potential network providers. Making this information available will help potential partners kick-start their network planning without having to survey and record the data themselves. In turn, local governments will be able to start substantive conversations with these providers much faster.

Streamline local government processes. Finally, cities and counties can take a look at some of their existing government processes and think about how to streamline and standardize them. For example, building a fiber network can require a lot of construction permits. By establishing a standard permitting process and publishing it for potential providers to see, localities can clearly indicate to network providers that they’re ready for a major infrastructure project. These providers can play a role, too — if they decide to build fiber in an area, they can share their building plans with localities ahead of time, and determine a rolling timeline of permit requests, to save localities from being inundated with thousands of permits at once.

These are just a few recommendations — but after working in this industry for almost two decades, we have many more tips for helping cities get ready for the fiber-optic networks that are the future. We also have case studies and engineering analysis, all compiled into a report, which can be found on www.Gigabit-Communities.com. We truly believe that fiber networks are essential to our communities’ future economic and community development, and we hope our experiences can help localities as they work toward that fiber future.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

New Year, New Internet Choice for Provo Residents

Starting today, Provo residents who live along the former iProvo network can start signing up for Google Fiber. You’ll be able to choose from three different options for your Fiber service:

  • The Gigabit Internet plan will give you an Internet connection that’s up to 100 times faster than basic broadband for $70/month.
  • The Gigabit Internet + TV plan will give you access to hundreds of TV channels, a storage box that can record up to 8 shows at once and hold up to 500 hours of HD content, plus an ultrafast Internet connection, for $120/month.
  • The Free Internet plan will give you basic broadband speeds (up to 5Mbps download, 1 Mbps upload) for a one-time, $30 installation fee, then no monthly costs for at least 7 years.
  • After you choose your plan, we’ll need to bring a brand new fiber-optic cable directly into your home. We can’t install fiber to everyone in Provo all at once, so we’re going to work in waves, starting with the North Park area next month and finishing in the Foothills area hopefully by the end of this year.

    When you go to our website, enter your address and find out which of the following “fiberhoods” your home is in. Then, sign up for Fiber before your area’s deadline. We don't have current plans to re-open fiberhood sign ups, so make sure you don't miss your deadline if you want Fiber. If you’re in one of our first three fiberhoods, make sure you put your area’s deadline on your calendar:

    North Park - Thursday, February 20
    Downtown Provo - Thursday, March 6
    Pioneer/West Provo - Thursday, March 27
    Grandview - Spring 2014
    North Provo - Summer 2014
    Southeast Provo - Summer 2014
    Foothills - Summer 2014

    If you’re in the Grandview, North Provo, Southeast Provo or the Foothills fiberhoods, we’re planning to bring Fiber to your area later this spring and summer and we’ll post your deadlines on this blog as we get closer to them. If you're in Provo, you can also sign up to get email updates — plus a Google Fiber mug.

    For those of you who are still customers of Veracity Networks and missed your early-access opportunity to get Fiber, you can go to our website now and sign up, too. Your deadline to choose your Google Fiber plan is February 28.

    Have questions? You can always call us up or get in touch with us online — but starting this Friday (Jan. 24th), you can also come see us in-person at our brand-new Fiber Space in the Shops at Riverwoods. The Fiber Space has several demo stations set up where you’ll be able to see just how fast Google Fiber is in-person, plus play around with our TV service and test out the different devices that will come with Fiber. We’d love to answer any of your questions or help you sign-up for Google Fiber!