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Summary:

Google and the City of Austin are planning an event next Tuesday to show business leaders, “something new” that’s coming to the city. Could it be a Google Fiber gigabit network?

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Will Austin be the next city to get a gigabit network?

The City of Austin and Google are hosting an event next Tuesday on April 9, and sources in the city suspect it is related to a broadband announcement. As a resident whether or not we are getting Google Fiber is my first and most pressing question, but if this is a gigabit announcement, it has big ramifications beyond my personal broadband speeds.

The invitation reads:

You are a leader here in Austin. Every day, your work and contributions help make our community better and stronger. That’s why we want you to be one of the first to hear about something new coming to Austin. Please join Google and the City of Austin for an announcement on Tuesday.

It’s possible that Google’s invite is nothing more than an invitation to business leaders to hear about a new office or a pilot program for a Google service such as same-day delivery. However, Google has said that it is thinking about deploying other gigabit networks outside of the one it is turning on in Kansas City. And Austin was pretty high up in the running with regards to the initial competition between cities to get Google’s fiber network. With a tech savvy population, a city-owned utility that might be able to offer concessions when it comes to stringing fiber along telephone poles and business and a government willing to work with Google, Austin has many of the elements that might draw Google.

Google declined to comment for this story.

At the launch of Google Fiber last summer in Kansas City, Google’s Milo Medin was clear in his frustration with how access speeds and costs were not keeping up with computing speeds and costs. As the man who helped build the first cable broadband business back when everyone said DSL speeds would suffice, he’s well aware that if you give people faster speeds they will use them. And that’s the stated rationale for Google to get into the broadband business — it wants to see what people will do with a gigabit connection.

But if Google really wants to put pressure on incumbents, perhaps rolling out fiber in one place isn’t enough?

Equipment, communities and even developers aren’t ready to support gigabit speeds yet, but as more places get them, companies will develop products and services that can handle those with gigabit connections. Maybe Google is ready to invest more dollars into broadband networks to drive demand. After all it can’t see what people will do with a gig if people can’t actually find ways to use it — and if people don’t have other gigabit communities to share their gigabit applications with.

So I’m hoping that the Google announcement next Tuesday in Austin is about a gigabit network for the Texas capital. Any expansion of Google’s network is a benefit not just to the cities that get it, but it also places pressure on incumbents to invest in upgrading their own networks. Maybe we can get to gigabit networks in all 50 states. Or even better — gigabit networks in every area where the population densities let the economics make sense.

Updated at 4:21 pm: Austin’s ABC affiliate KVUE is reporting that it has confirmed Google Fiber is coming to Austin.

  1. Ian Littman Friday, April 5, 2013

    I’m about three miles from Google’s Austin HQ…if they do decide to go gigabit here and my neighborhood isn’t on the initial fiberhood map, they’ll be getting a visit. Because GFiber would have a higher take rate in this area partially due to the lack of Grande Communications. And the fact that most folks in this area would have no problem paying for the Internet + TV GFiber deal.

    Speaking of Grande, Google Fiber coming here would probably put a stop to their expansion in Austin. But it’s one competitor instead of another, and I don’t think Grande was planning on building FTTH anyway.

    As for Austin Energy being the sole utility across the entire city, there could be some nice public-private partnerships there. Google could provide a better smart meter network so that more of the city gets realtime diagnostics like Mueller already has. You aren’t going to get that kind of information from wireless meters that report back once a day (I asked AE several months ago and that’s the reporting frequency for their network at large).

    Will TWC and AT&T be happy about this move, if it *is* actually a GFiber announcement? Of course not. But maybe that will encourage AT&T to finish building out U-Verse to areas that GFiber won’t hit at first, and to make Austin a test market for its new higher-speed tiers (45/6 Mbps and the like). Likewise, if GFiber comes to town, expect TWC to upgrade 30/5 customers to 50/5 and 50/5 customers to 100/5 shortly thereafter, though the price of the latter will still be above what GFiber’s gigabit plan costs.

    One thing’s for sure: I’m not renewing my apartment lease until Tuesday.

  2. David H. Deans Friday, April 5, 2013

    Stacey, like you, I live in Austin. But I wonder if this “secret” announcement could be somewhat anti-climactic. I guess we’ll have to wait until next week to know for sure.

    There’s so much media noise that some PR folks believe one way to break through it is to hold back information, in the hope of creating some buzz — like the speculative story you wrote here.

    1. Dave you can sit and wonder, but I am so excited about the prospect of Google Fiber that there’s no way I’d get a mysterious invite from the city and Google and not dig into it.

      1. Understood, Stacey. Like you, I welcome any substantive broadband service competition in Austin — especially a 1gig symmetrical offering. But I’ll hold back my excitement until Tuesday.

        Maybe I’m over-reacting — due to the recent speculative Facebook Phone anticlimax.

      2. Having lived in KC, and still knowing a lot of people that live there (my dad included), the prospect of Google Fiber coming to the area is awesome. I just hope there are existing fiber backbones, that are dark, going down to SA. I’m moving there in a week and a half.

  3. Would be better if they do more than fiber and add some wireless.

    1. Stacey Higginbotham realjjj Friday, April 5, 2013

      I hope they do both.

  4. Oh boy, this is a wonderful possibility! Please, Google, please City of Austin, come through for us with this!!! And thank you Stacey, for being the bearer of such great news!

  5. Ian Littman Friday, April 5, 2013

    CONFIRMED (by anonymous sources): http://www.kvue.com/news/Google-Fiber-coming-to-Austin-201695291.html

    Related: http://www.meetup.com/Google-Fiber-NW-Austin/ (I may switch this up to focus on a specific “fiberhood” or expand it out to more of Austin…we’ll see)

  6. I’m hoping there is a clue in this PR campaign. By targeting business leaders it makes me believe they’ll be introducing their business package. That would be a game changer IMO. Business tier internet ain’t cheap, and certainly not gigabit up/down. Hopefully this means our Silicon Hills will be getting an upgrade.

    1. I am not a business leader .. and I got the invite. So it is going to be a ‘hippie’ package for me!

  7. C Fred Moore Friday, April 5, 2013

    Dear Stacey:

    I want to sign up. Please inform me on how to get signed up. Help me and help Austin at the same time. We are presently in a third world country and most people do not realize the situation.

    regards,
    C. Fred Moore

  8. Charlie Wood Sunday, April 7, 2013

    Very much looking forward to this. Not so much for my home (which is West of 360 and surely not on Google’s, er, roadmap) as for my office, which is on Congress Frickin’ Avenue–and the best connection we can get is 18/3 DSL. I mean, Jiminy Cricket, my phone gets twice that!

    So I’ll be at the Capital Factory + Google happy hour Wednesday. Hope to see you there.

    -c

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