Google Eyes 34 Cities for Next Step in Gigabit Fiber Expansion

The cities across the US aren't guaranteed service, but gigabit-speed Internet could be coming

Google has chosen 34 cities across the U.S. as the next sites for possible expansion of its gigabit-speed Fiber Internet service.

The cities encompass nine metro areas and include Salt Lake City; San Antonio; Nashville, Tennessee; Charlotte, North Carolina; clusters of cities around Silicon Valley, including Mountain View where Google has its headquarters; Atlanta; Portland, Oregon; Phoenix; and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

The cities in the metro clusters are: Silicon Valley: San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto; Atlanta: Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, College Park, Decatur, East Point, Hapeville, Sandy Springs and Smyrna; Portland: Beaverton, Hillsboro, Gresham, Lake Oswego and Tigard; Phoenix: Scottsdale and Tempe; Raleigh-Durham: Carrborro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Morrisville and Raleigh.

Google Fiber is currently available in Provo, Utah, and Kansas City and will soon launch in Austin, Texas. It delivers a "basic speed" service for no charge, a gigabit-per-second-speed service for US$70 per month and a $120 package that includes a bundle of more than 200 TV channels.

That speed is 10 to 100 times faster than the current fastest service typically available to American homes. For heavy Internet users including those that stream a lot of high-definition video, the service could be an attractive option.

For Google, the expansion of Fiber means the chance to collect more data about what people do online -- and how they watch television.

Remote-control clicks up and down to change channel is among the data collected by Google from subscribers with the TV service. That's important information for a company like Google, which makes a large portion of its revenue from advertising.

Wednesday's announcement doesn't guarantee any or all of the cities will be getting the service.

"While we do want to bring Fiber to every one of these cities, it might not work out for everyone," the company said in a statement. "But cities who go through this process with us will be more prepared for us or any provider who wants to build a fiber network."

It also doesn't put a time frame on the process, but it's unlikely to come to any of the cities this year.

"We'll work closely with each city's leaders on a joint planning process that will not only map out a Google Fiber network in detail, but also assess what unique local challenges we might face," the company said. It's "aiming" to provide updates on the progress of talks by the end of this year.

Google's first steps in providing Internet service happened in 2006 when it launched a municipal Wi-Fi network in Mountain View. The free service blanketed much of the city, but in the past couple of years has become unusable -- a result, according to Google, of the greater traffic demands being put on it by the plethora of smartphones and tablets in use.

On Wednesday, the city of Mountain View said it has agreed with Google on a new proposal that would replace the existing Wi-Fi network with a new one that covers only the downtown area of the city. The new network will be accompanied by a $500,000 "technology grant" from Google. The grant money has been initially earmarked to expand Wi-Fi service in city buildings and a park.

The Wi-Fi and grant proposal needs to be approved by the city council. It will be up for a vote on Feb. 25.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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