Google Fiber fast Internet service, said Tuesday it is planning to come to Los Angeles and Chicago, the second and third-largest U.S. cities by population, if they pass a long review.
Google Fiber is a competitive threat for Comcast, AT&T and other service provider
“While we can’t guarantee that we’ll be able to bring Fiber to Chicago and L.A., this is a big step for these cities and their leaders,” Jill Szuchmacher, director of Google Fiber’s expansion & efforts, wrote in a blog. “Expansion planning for a project of this size is a huge undertaking.”
The company says its service offers speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second and is already live in Kansas City, Mo.; Austin, Texas; and Provo, Utah. Pricing for Google Fiber in Kansas City begins at $70 for 1 gigabit per second broadband service and costs $130 with the addition of TV service. Szuchmacher said it was too early to estimate what pricing would be in Chicago.
At such speeds, the company says, a customer could download a high-definition movie in about 7 seconds.
Comcast’s 2 Gbps Gigabit Pro Internet service is available to 2.4 million homes in the region for $299.95 a month, according to the company. AT&T offers its GigaPower network with speeds up to 1 Gbps for $110 in Chicago.
The statewide average broadband speed in Illinois is 31.2 Mbps, according to data from BroadbandNow, a comparison and research website.
Google will kick off discussions with city staff Tuesday afternoon, Szuchmacher told Blue Sky.
Google has created a detailed checklist to help city officials understand what it means to have a “very, very large-scale build going on (within) city limits,” Szuchmacher said.
The planning process could take months, she said. After kicking off the discussion process with nine cities in February 2014, she said, six decided to let Google move ahead with construction.
Google’s fiber-optic service once seemed to be a hobby for the company, a competitive threat to prod other companies to improve their own service. It seemed unlikely that Google would invest the billions of dollars required to gain a foothold in regional markets controlled by Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, Verizon CenturyLink and other established telecom companies.
Google currently service in Kansas City, Austin and Provo
In the past year, though, it’s become apparent that Google Fiber is serious about competing. It currently serves just three markets – Kansas City, Austin and Provo – but it’s in the process of opening up service in two cities in North Carolina, Atlanta, Nashville, San Antonio and Salt Lake City.
Eleven other markets are candidates for expansion, and the addition of Los Angeles and Chicago on Tuesday brings the nation’s second- and third-largest cities to the list.
Google Fiber offers connections of 1 gigabit per second, 40 times faster than the current federal broadband standard, and an accompanying cable TV package. The Internet service is $70 a month; cable TV is $65 extra. Those prices are higher than many existing packages, but cheaper than other gigabit services.
Google has a long checklist of cities who want its service, requiring them to adopt a set regulatory framework and give the company a great deal of latitude in deciding which neighborhoods to serve.
Portland moved quickly to approve Google’s checklist after the company first indicated an interest in the city early in 2014.
There are now 20 cities where Google Fiber is providing service already, building its network or considering building, including Atlanta and Austin. The 20 metro areas contain about 5% of the total U.S. population and include six of the 10 largest U.S. cities by population. Its expansion plans have become a lot more aggressive since Google re-organized itself into the Alphabet holding company earlier this year. The goal is to give newer businesses more freedom to invest while making them more accountable for their financial performance.
“Google Fiber looking at big cities is a sign of greater aggressiveness, “ said Blair Levin, who led broadband Internet initiatives at the Federal Communications Commission for several years. “It is ultimately going to have to stand on its on two feet, without the support it previously required from Alphabet. To do that, it needs a certain scale that requires a presence in a number of bigger cities.”