Game changer: What Google Fiber means for Atlanta
This story has been updated.
Atlanta, a city that’s been called “too busy to hate,” is about to get even busier.
On Tuesday, Jan. 27, representatives from nine cities – Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, College Park, Decatur, East Point, Hapeville, Sandy Springs and Smyrna – gathered at Google’s offices in Midtown to officially announce that the metro area will become the next batch of cities to receive Google Fiber.
Mayor Kasim Reed called it “one of the most important moments in the life of the Atlanta metropolitan region.”
“We couldn’t be more excited and we’re just ready to go,” Reed said.
Google Fiber will fundamentally change the market for high speed internet in this area and will be a powerful economic development tool for cities. The company is offering speeds of 1 gigabit per second, or 1,000 megabits per second. For comparison, the average speed in the U.S. is 11.5 megabits per second.
“Atlanta is a perfect city to show us all what’s possible,” Google Director of Marketing Scott Levitan said. “Google Fiber will help put Atlanta on par with the fastest cities in the world. This is a big deal. The U.S. ranks 14 in internet speeds. We want to see what Atlanta can do with world class speeds.”
It’s already forcing other local ISPs to step up their game. After Google named Atlanta as a potential target for expansion back in February, AT&T announced its intentions to provide a gigabit internet service, and Comcast announced it would be expanding its 10 gigabit fiber network to businesses in the Atlanta Metro area.
During the press conference, Decaturish received a note from Comcast.
“Comcast already offers speeds up to 10 Gbps to Atlanta area business customers,” the company said. “For our residential customers, we’ve increased our internet speeds 13 times in the last 13 years, doubled our network capacity every 18 months, and operate the nation’s fastest and most reliable in home Wi-Fi service. We have a great track record for staying at the technology forefront and delivering the fastest speeds to the most homes and businesses.”
Levitan predicts one way or another, internet will become faster for everyone in the metro area.
“One thing I can assure you, speeds in Atlanta are going up, and that’s good for the people of Atlanta,” he said.
Soon after the announcement, there were a number of questions.
How much will the internet service cost?
– 1,000 megabits per second (1 gigabit) is $70 a month, Levitan said.
– Levitan said, “Many people like fries with their burger and they like TV with their internet. So, we have 150 HD channels, a DVR that can record eight shows at once.” Gigabit service plus TV service is $130 per month.
– There’s also a basic internet service, 4 megabits download and 1 megabit upload, for $3 per month, Levitan said. There’s some conflicting information about pricing for this tier of service. Google’s available plans for Austin, for example, offer it for a one-time construction fee of $300 or $25 per month.
Will internet be confined to the cities named in the announcement, or will it be available for other cities and communities in the metro area?
Levitan said there are no definite plans for expansion beyond the nine cities, but adds the company’s tendency is to grow outward.
“If we look at our previous examples, yes we tend to continue to expand,” he said. “Our hope is to bring super fast internet to everyone.”
The planning and build out phase for these nine cities will take at least two years.
Avondale Estates Mayor Terry Giager said, “In two years we can expect most everybody will be on board.”
Lena Stevens, Decatur’s project lead on the Google Fiber initiative, said there’s a lot of work left before residents can expect Google Fiber in their homes and businesses.
“What’s next is just what they said, a lot of planning,” Stevens said. “I think they want to be careful before they go into the construction phase.”
After Google designs the network it will begin construction, laying “thousands of miles of brand new, state-of-the-art fiber optic cable” in Atlanta neighborhoods.
“We’ll be laying enough fiber to stretch to here from Canada and back,” Levitan said.
Once that’s completed, Google will open its sign up process.
“We build the fiber network in areas where people want it,” a handout from the company says. “Cities are divided into small communities we call fiberhoods. You can get fiber if enough people in your fiberhood show interest.”
Judging by the reaction to the news from people in the room and online, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss said the announcement is, “great news for Decatur.”
“It’s part of our commitment to be a techno-friendly city,” Merriss said. “It will help our residents, and at some point we believe our businesses really move into high speed fiber connections, which will help us do economic development as well as offer alternatives to other sources that are out there. We’re extremely excited. We know there’s a lot of hard work left to do.”