Technology

Another Google Fiber delay in Kansas City, as the rest of the world catches up

Despite Google Fiber’s promises last spring, the company now says it will not finish installing gigabit-speed Internet across town until next summer. Meanwhile, across the country, other Internet providers are speeding up their broadband to match Google Fiber.
Despite Google Fiber’s promises last spring, the company now says it will not finish installing gigabit-speed Internet across town until next summer. Meanwhile, across the country, other Internet providers are speeding up their broadband to match Google Fiber. THE KANSAS CITY STAR

Google Inc. had said it would wire all of Kansas City and a handful of suburbs by year’s end.

Now it’s telling prospective customers across town that the work may not wrap up until next summer.

Once Google Fiber finally blankets the market, few places in the world will have broadband so speedy for home users at such a low cost.

Yet Kansas City’s coming-soon great bandwidth edge looks slightly less impressive as Internet service elsewhere continues to move at ever increasing speeds.

“We’re seeing faster speeds everywhere,” said David Belson, who authors the State of the Internet Report for Akamai. “Part of that is that the technology is improving to get better speeds out of existing networks. … Part of it’s consumer demand. … And part is the pressure that Google Fiber’s existence creates on everybody else.”

Google has wired thousands of homes, selling back-and-forth data speeds of 1 gigabit per second. When the company picked Kansas City for its service in 2011, that was more than 100 times the national average for home Internet connections. It’s still far speedier than the American average, but not by as much.

Akamai Technologies reports that average peak connection speeds in the United States nearly tripled since Google started its work in Kansas City. Internet speeds in Missouri more than tripled and in Kansas — like Missouri, boosted by the Google Fiber in the Kansas City market — they are almost six times faster.

Meantime, Time Warner Cable dominates the Kansas City market and sells speeds of 50 megabits per second for what it used to charge for just 15 mps. Google Fiber is still 20 times faster than that, but few people have much use — yet, anyway — for anything faster.

AT&T now has a deal to sell speeds as fast as Google’s in Overland Park. It’s not saying when it might deliver that service in the sprawling suburb, but neither has Google.

After Google tabbed Kansas City for Internet service, it promised the same light-speed hookups in Austin, Texas. It’s not yet installed the connections in homes there, but AT&T began firing data to residential customers there late last year at the speeds Google hopes to someday deliver.

As it trenches through lawns and strings fiber-optic lines from utility poles here and in Texas, Google is also exploring nine other markets in the country. The company has suggested it will go where local government clears away red tape that can slow down construction and push up costs.

Google Fiber recently named Dennis Kish, a former executive for computer chipmaker Qualcomm, as its vice president. That’s sparked speculation in trade publications that the company is serious about a national service on the scale of Time Warner Cable or Comcast.

All the while, the broadband landscape continues to evolve.

“When Google announced it was offering a gigabit, everybody was, ‘Huh? What are you going do with that?’” said Heather Burnett Gold, the president of the Fiber to the Home Council Americas. Her organization promotes the deployment of fiber-optic data lines for click-swift Internet for residential customers.

“Now people are taking the approach that when they put a new line in,” she said, “they need to make it as fast as possible.”

More than 50 companies across the country now sell gigabit speeds to home consumers, she said. But getting there isn’t always easy.

When Google came to Kansas City, it spoke of rolling out the network at “Google speed.” The firm announced evolving timetables, then regularly missed them.

An executive leading the project in its early days said the first 10 neighborhoods or so could expect service by the fall of 2012. It came almost a year later.

The company later said it would finish installing hookups in the central third of Kansas City and all of Kansas City, Kan., by Christmas 2013. It’s still not done with those areas and won’t say when it expects to finish.

For a time, the company stopped making predictions on when it would clear various stages of production.

Then this March, Google Fiber went to the southern and northern parts of Kansas City and to Gladstone, Raytown and Grandview for its latest “rallies.” Those subscriber-hunting periods are when the company prods customers to urge people living nearby to sign up to qualify their neighborhoods to buy service from Google. Agree to a contract, the company said last spring, and expect installation before the year is done.

Last week, the company emailed customers saying it couldn’t live up to its own projections.

“We’re not quite ready to install Fiber in your home,” the email said. “We suggest that you have a way to access the Web until Fiber is up and running in your home.”

On Friday, the company issued a statement that did little to clarify why its taking longer to hook up those customers than Google said seven months ago.

“We’ve run into a series of construction challenges, resulting in longer-than-expected installation wait times,” the company said in an email. “We don’t have a specific timeline on when installation will be done.”

That’s prompted some disappointment.

Said one waiting customer on Twitter: “Ugh, summer of 2015! I was hoping for #GoogleFiber this year.”

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

Digital divide

A Wall Street Journal survey published Friday found people in low-income areas east of Troost Avenue were far less likely to buy high-speed service from Google Fiber than their wealthier neighbors to the west.

The Journal said 10 percent of residents in the poorer neighborhoods bought high-speed Internet connections from Google. About 5 percent in those areas paid $300 to the company to cover the cost of installing otherwise free, low-speed Internet for seven years.

In contrast, 42 percent of residents in nearby but more prosperous areas paid for high-speed connections, and 11 percent bought the low-speed service.

  Comments