Google Fiber plans to test small-business service in Kansas City

04/16/2014 9:22 PM

04/16/2014 9:22 PM

Google plans to test an ultra-high-speed Internet service to some small businesses in Kansas City — spinning off the household service it debuted here — by the end of the year.

The company sent out questionnaires this week to businesses in the market who had indicated they wanted to buy service through Google Fiber.

In the notice sent to those businesses, Google Fiber said it would connect a “limited number of small businesses” to its network “in the next few months.”

First, however, it’s

querying

those potential test customers about the industries they’re in, how many people they employ, whether their managers have Google Fiber service at home, their use of remote Internet storage and technical issues about their existing Internet connections. Those businesses have until April 25 to fill out the online questionnaire.

“We’re already on the list,” said Joni Cobb, president of the Pipeline entrepreneurial fellows program in Kansas City, Kan., who responded immediately to the Google survey.

EyeVerify is one small business that would jump at the higher speed and capacity a Google Fiber connection would bring.

“Absolutely,” chief executive Toby Rush said as he was filling out Google’s questionnaire.

The company's product for cellphones will verify your identity based on the whites of your eyes. Its 20 or so developers are busy “hitting the Internet” in their work, Rush said, but don’t have a large capacity connection because the company is in a small office.

Google Fiber would change that dramatically, enough that Rush said he would pay a higher business rate if it were “reasonable.”

A Google Fiber spokeswoman would not say how many businesses were being surveyed, how soon the pilot program would launch or when a fully developed service for small businesses might be more broadly available in the market.

Rather, she said, the company is looking to refine whatever service it might sell to businesses in Kansas City.

City leaders have promoted the arrival of Google Fiber as a boon to small businesses. Yet local entrepreneurs have complained that connections have not been available to them.

Google Fiber is distinctive because it runs fiber optic lines from the company’s network directly to homes. That allows for upload and download speeds of 1 gigabit per second — about 100 times faster than the norm for U.S. consumers.

Businesses can buy similar heavy duty broadband from other companies, but Google Fiber offers the bandwidth at far lower prices to home consumers.

One neighborhood, near Westport and State Line roads, has managed to tap into Google Fiber. But the houses that make up Kansas City Startup Village were wired to the network because Google believed they were residences, not businesses.

This week marks the first time that Google has given any hint about its business product.

The first home hookups to Google Fiber came in late 2012. It is just completing installations to customers in Kansas City, Kan., and central Kansas City. It has said it will complete installations to selected neighborhoods throughout Kansas City, Raytown, Grandview and Gladstone by the end of this year.

It has begun selling a home service in Provo, Utah, where it bought an existing fiber optic network. Although its plans have fallen behind schedule, it also plans to sell household connections in Austin, Texas. And it has asked cities in nine other American markets for infrastructure and regulatory data as it contemplates spreading farther.

But the pilot program for a small business service, the company said, so far includes only Kansas City.

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