Google has launched a sparkling new product called Google Fiber, a high-speed broadband service that delivers transfer rates of a near-instantaneous 1,000 megabits per second. Simultaneously, the company announced Google Fiber TV, its first entrant into the plodding and oftentimes frustrating world of cable television. The service will debut in Kansas City, Mo., where Google is investing $500 million to build a fiber-optic network, and may eventually roll out to other cities based on user demand. Lucky residents will be able to watch HD television not just on their TVs but also on their computers, tablets, and phones. They'll also be able to record up to eight programs at once using 1 terabyte of free cloud storage. Google is offering several package deals, but clients can get both broadband and TV service together for $120 a month while receiving a free Nexus 7 tablet to use as the media center's controller. Should longtime providers like Comcast and Verizon be worried by Google's thunderous foray into the cable business?
Yes. Fiber could change the game: "The distance between Google Fiber and its competitors is comical," says Kyle Wagner at Gizmodo. Consider this: The top speed Verizon FiOS provides — 300 megabits per second — is three times slower than Google Fiber's. And the high-def TV package will have all broadcast networks as well as hundreds of so-called "Fiber channels." Add in the fact that the search giant is willing to waive the $300 installation fee for new customers, and competitors should be "scared" enough to "put out bounties for on-the-ground information about Google Fiber."
"Google's crazy 100Mbs fiber internet connection is out today"
But Google needs more support: Fiber's biggest problem is that it needs backing from the big players, says Marguerite Reardon at CNET. The Discovery Channel, CNBC, AMC, TNT, Comedy Central, ESPN, CNN, and HBO are all glaringly absent. And Google may have a hard time convincing the owners of those channels — like Disney (ESPN, HBO) and Time Warner (TNT) — to climb onboard. "At a minimum," Google has to offer subscribers the same channels that they can get elsewhere. "As other paid TV providers can attest, content is king."
"Can Google Fiber TV compete?"
Fiber will have to make it out of the experimental phase first: "There's a weird rub to all of this," says Arik Hesseldahl at All Things D. "While the plans are finalized," a lot of the infrastructure to support Google Fiber isn't even built yet. Individual Kansas City neighborhoods, for example, will have to "compete" to demonstrate they're really interested in the package — it's not open to just anyone "but to areas where people get together and demonstrate that there's enough demand" by voting on the Google Fiber website. This selective rollout will be "a very interesting part" of the experiment. Hopefully, Google can make the expensive venture worthwhile.
"Google gets into the cable TV business, for real"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why is the Pentagon stuffing caves in Norway full of tanks?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- The U.S. government is actually trouncing Ebola. When will it get credit?
- Syrian women know how to defeat ISIS
- 5 baffling foreign-language versions of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song
- The one thing the New Atheists get right about religion
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
Subscribe to the Week