Politics & Government
2:02 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

What's It Like To Have Internet 100 Times Faster Than Broadband?

Yesterday we wrote about the possibility that Google Fiber might come to the Triangle. Google Fiber is new technology that delivers high speed Internet, 100 times faster than basic broadband. (Read our original story below for more about the announcement.)

Google Fiber first deployed in Kansas City. So we decided to call a resident and find out what it's like.

Evan Stange is a tech guy in town. He got Google Fiber pretty much as soon as it was offered in June of last year. I expected him to wax poetic about the speed. And he does love it. But he also mentioned some things he doesn't like.

The Stange family first had Internet through a cable company. But "after years of bad customer service and expense, we switched to AT&T. Then as soon as Google Fiber came through we switched."

He says he noticed a difference right away, particularly in loading web pages. "Yes, absolutely. Let's say I am shopping on Home Depot or Amazon. Where before a page took maybe 3-4 second to load images, [with Google Fiber]  they load instantly."

"It used to be like, 'Oh, hey everyone, I am uploading stuff! Don't use the Internet for 2 hours!'" - Evan Stange

Stange says the service really shines in uploading movies or pictures to Facebook or Dropbox, or Google Drive. Stange uses Google Drive a lot with images. Say he attended a wedding and he took hundreds of images. He'd transfer the images from his camera to his computer, and then will move them to his online Google Drive. "So I can take a folder of 500 pictures and what used to take overnight to back up, I can now do it in a matter of minutes." This frees up the internet in his house. "It used to be like, 'Oh, hey everyone, I am uploading stuff…don't use the Internet for 2 hours!'"

But What About TV?

The TV aspect is high quality, he says. The channels default to high def.  And though he could in theory record 8 shows at once, he says he usually doesn't use that function.

Stange does wish for some old school functionality. A traditional remote has a "last" button where you can click between two channels. The Google Fiber drive brings up a choice of the last three channels you've visited, making it impossible to go back and forth between two shows quickly.

He also wishes that you could browse the internet from your TV. He currently fires up his old Google TV device occasionally, just to surf the web.

One Thing Missing

One negative, Stange says, is that with a cable provider, you can watch your content anywhere in the world. "If you're at a hotel in Denver or Tokyo, and if you have Internet, you can get to your content and watch the TV shows you've recorded. With Google Fiber content, you can watch and record on any device, but only when you're at home. That's a big drawback for me."

Overall, though, even with these concerns, Evan Stange has been very impressed with the service.

Not So Fast

I also talked with Trudy Barker. Trudy is a Kansas City Google Fiber user, but she didn't get all the bells and whistles. She got the package in which you pay $300 up front, and then get 7 years of service for free. (The speeds at this level are about the same as her current internet provider.)

"Maybe if I had it I couldn't do without it. But I don't, so I don't miss it." -Trudy Barker

Trudy decided not to try the super high speed. She knew she wasn't a big media user, and she thought she'd miss the music channels that her current provider offers. Trudy is practical about her choice to go relatively low-tech, even with the option to have such stunning speed. "Maybe if I had it I couldn't do without it," she says. "But I don't, so I don't miss it."

Here's an interesting article in the Kansas City Star. (Kansas City was the first in the nation to get Google Fiber.)

Our original story published 2/19/14:

Coming Soon? Internet 100 Times Faster Than Basic Broadband Speed

OK, I am getting dreamy just imagining it. Internet connectivity 100 times faster than basic cable. Hundreds of HD channels. It's called Google Fiber, and though it sounds like a breakfast cereal, it is not. And it might just be coming to the Triangle.

Google announced today that the Triangle is one of nine areas that might just get the new technology. Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Morrisville and Raleigh will be working closely with Google to figure out just what it would take for the new technology to be implemented here.

In 2011 it was announced that that Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, would be the first cities to receive Google Fiber. In April 2013, two more cities (not named Kansas City) were added to the list: Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah.

Google will come to the Triangle to conduct detailed studies of topography, housing density and local infrastructure.

The cities have to work on the details, says Google:

  • Provide detailed, accurate maps — e.g. of existing infrastructure like utility poles, conduit, and water, gas, and electricity lines.
  • Ensure access and put Google fiber on existing poles or conduits
  • Review permitting processes to make sure cities can handle as much as 100x their usual number of permit requests

After the period of working together, Google will decide if the Triangle will get the special fiber by the end of the year. Read more. And look at the current pricing and offerings in the cities which have Google Fiber. Why might a city not land the project? Here's some insight on a Google blog.

Green indicates current Google Fiber cities. Red indicates potential cities.
Credit Google