Google Fiber must succeed

Let's all hope Google's fast, free Internet service spreads beyond Kansas City -- and challenges the overly complacent ISPs

A few weeks ago, I discussed how the United States is haunted by the specter of metered and tiered Internet. Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, and others are crying foul over unlimited Internet, and they're complaining bitterly about how very difficult it is for them to provide Internet access -- even when they're often the only provider in their service areas and it's never been cheaper to ship bits around the world. In short, while their services should be getting faster and cheaper, they're lobbying for slower, metered, and more expensive. 

In that discussion, I mentioned how Time Warner is apparently very nervous about Google's aspirations to provide fiber to Kansas City, KS, and Kansas City, MO. They're right to be nervous. Google Fiber has landed, and anyone in Kansas City who wants an Internet connection would be insane not to sign up. If the word gets out and the service performs as promised, Google could drive the existing Kansas City ISPs out of town.

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For starters, Google is offering free Internet. Pay a $300 installation fee, and you get 5Mbit/1Mbit service guaranteed for seven years with no data caps or tiering. You also get Google's Network Box, which is presumably a router/firewall/wireless access point. You can even amortize the $300 over the first 12 months. It's very hard to compete with free.

Options galore

Alternatively, for no setup fee and $70 a month, you get 1Gbit -- that's gigabit -- bidirectional network access, the aforementioned Network Box, and 1TB storage on Google Drive. That's on par with what some providers are charging for 10Mbit/1Mbit access in some areas in the United States right now.

Or for $120 a month, you get the whole package with gigabit Internet and television. Google will even throw in the set-top boxes, a 2TB PVR for recording TV shows, and a Nexus 7 tablet. That's again in the ballpark for TV/Internet deals from all other ISPs, but with exponentially faster network speeds.

The privacy question

One potential downside is that some big channels (such as HBO and ESPN) are missing from the lineup, but that could change. Also, there's the question of whether Google will be monitoring Internet usage on these links, considering the company has a long history of collecting data on its users. According to the privacy statement:

Technical information collected from the use of Google Fiber Internet for network management, security or maintenance may be associated with the Google Account you use for Fiber, but such information associated with the Google Account you use for Fiber will not be used by other Google properties without your consent. Other information from the use of Google Fiber Internet (such as URLs of websites visited or content of communications) will not be associated with the Google Account you use for Fiber, except with your consent or to meet any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request.

The answer is yes, Google might collect some data, but it won't be linked to your Google account unless you want it to be. Or something -- it's not terribly clear. However, it's not much different from what any other ISP does or might do. Elsewhere, Google says it will not perform deep packet inspection or any form of throttling or prioritization.

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