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After starting in KC, Google Fiber poised to bring service to Austin, Texas

Updated: 2013-04-09T01:12:17Z

By SCOTT CANON

The Kansas City Star

Kansas City might soon be a virtual cousin to Austin, Texas, with bragging rights over faster-than-fast Internet.

An invitation issued Friday by Google Inc. and the city of Austin launched speculation that the hipster hub of Texas will be the second market where the Internet search giant plans to run fiberoptic lines to homes and businesses for a high-speed Internet service.

On Tuesday, according to the invitation, “the city of Austin and Google will make a very important announcement that will have a positive impact on Austinites and the future of the city.”

After the invitation circulated Friday, the technology news website Engadget reported that a section of Google Fiber’s website flashed a headline reading “Google Fiber's Next Stop: Austin, Texas.” By Saturday, no such headline was in evidence, but on Monday afternoon, Engadget reported the Google-to-Austin deal as fact.

A Google spokeswoman said that the company does not “comment on rumors and speculation.”

It is unclear whether a Google Fiber launch in Austin would change things for Kansas City. In theory, it might drain resources from the Kansas City market. Google picked Kansas City over 1,100 other competing communities two years ago. Google Fiber is now available in a only handful of neighborhoods, which by some estimates puts it a year behind schedule.

Yet Google has outsourced to contractors virtually all of the work of hanging and burying lines to construct the network and deploying crews to install the service in homes. As a result, building what the company calls “fiberhoods” in Austin could be accomplished by signing up more contractors and without delaying progress in Kansas City.

Still, the development could diminish Kansas City’s tech advantage. For now, it is the only market in the country where home consumers are offered industrial-strength Internet connections at a cost that is competitive with conventional broadband access.

Austin, perhaps benefiting from the fits and starts Google has seen in erecting a network in Kansas City, might see a swifter rollout. And the Texas capital has a stronger tech culture.

Austin already has a Google office (the company was only a spot on Kansas City desktops before 2011). Both Apple Inc. and Samsung have sizable presences in the city, which is also home to the University of Texas and South by Southwest, an annual music festival and technology conference that has become the darling of the tech set.

To reach Scott Canon, call 816-234-4754 or send email to scanon@kcstar.com.

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