Google announced Tuesday that it would bring its ultra-fast broadband Internet to seven Triangle towns and cities, as well as Charlotte.
Joined by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, as well as the mayors of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Garner, Carrboro and Morrisville, Google announced the company’s ultra high-speed Internet and television service, known as Google Fiber, will be installed throughout the Triangle.
“We are committing to invest in and build a brand new fiber optic network throughout Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Morrisville and Raleigh,” Google Fiber’s Director of Business Operations Michael Slinger said Tuesday at the N.C. Museum of History. “Last year we began working with these cities to explore the possibility of bringing a super-fast Internet and TV service to their residents and small businesses. The local leaders … rose to the challenge.”
Google Fiber is a broadband and television service that promises transfer speeds of 1 Gigabit per second — there are roughly 1,000 Mebabits in 1 Gb. For comparison, the average American broadband speed is 11.5 Megabits per second, and Time Warner Cable advertises Internet service up to 300 Mbps.
The ultra-fast service is appealing for both households and businesses, and McCrory pointed out that it will be a “selling point” for North Carolina.
“In the 20th century, North Carolina was known as the Good Roads State. With these types of announcements and more investment in technology, we’re becoming the 21st century Digital Infrastructure State,” McCrory said Tuesday. “This is going to be the thing that helps us in education, the thing that helps us create jobs and it’s going to help gain access to everybody.”
No timetable for availability
Google did not announce when the service will be available in the Triangle, saying, “Bringing Google Fiber to these cities is a long-term investment” and that “building a fiber network takes time.”
“We are, right now, going to be hiring a small, local team of Googlers in the Raleigh-Durham area,” Slinger said.
Raleigh said in a news release it expects construction on the network to begin in several months, which Google said will entail working with “cities to create a detailed map of where we can put our thousands of miles of fiber, using existing infrastructure such as utility poles and underground conduit, and making sure to avoid things like gas and water lines.”
The company added, “Then a team of surveyors and engineers will hit the streets to fill in missing details. Once we’re done designing the network (which we expect to wrap up in a few months), we’ll start construction.”
Once the service is available, Mayor Nancy McFarlane said having access to ultra-fast Internet will help Raleigh’s residents “participate in today’s global economy.”
“Google Fiber in Raleigh is an opportunity to strengthen the foundations of future economic development in the city that will benefit not only today’s residents, but future generations to come,” McFarlane said. “Broadband is the next generation’s economic development infrastructure that supports the collaboration of communities and the advancement of education and research.”
Google’s expansion in the Triangle
Tuesday’s announcement expands Google’s already strong presence in the Triangle. In 2013, the tech giant brought one of its seven Tech Hubs to the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, offering entrepreneurs direct access to Google developers, early access to Google products and mentoring opportunities.
Mayor Bill Bell said the timing of Google’s announcement couldn’t have come at a better time for the City of Durham.
“We recently had a ribbon cutting in our downtown for our first Innovation District, and we already have American Tobacco Underground — a hive of young entrepreneurs,” Bell said. “These are the type of people who are working and really have access and need for the type of technology that Google is bringing to our city.”
Connecting the entire state
In addition to the seven Triangle towns and cities, McCrory said Google Fiber is also coming to Charlotte, making North Carolina part of what the governor called the “national innovative triangle.”
“That triangle is in the Silicon Valley, where Google’s headquarters are … to the Boston area, and the third part of that vertex is — we want — North Carolina,” McCrory said. “Having this high capacity will help us sell North Carolina as part of that third vertex of the innovation triangle of America.”
He added, “This advanced technology is a selling point in addition to the incredible talent that we have throughout North Carolina, and especially right here in the Triangle.”
McCrory said that when Google announced last year that it would explore the possibility of expanding Fiber to other cities and towns, eight North Carolina municipalities stepped up to apply for the service.
“All eight got it,” he said. “I think Google is realizing along with the rest of the nation that North Carolina is now the ninth most populous state in the United States of America as of last month. So this new high-speed infrastructure is crucial to our expanded sustainability and our growth.”
While the service will be available in the state’s major metro areas, McCrory said he hopes to expand high-speed broadband across the state.
“Our goal now is to expand this advancement by all service providers throughout North Carolina and connect the entire state,” McCrory said. “That has got to continue to be our long-term goal.”
“This is as important as roads,” the governor added. “It’s a form of connectivity, and that connectivity will bring more jobs and economic prosperity.”
Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill were among the cities that applied for Google Fiber in 2010. At the time, the service was announced in Kansas City and later expanded to Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah.
A report in the Kansas City Star from March 2014 said Google Fiber was in four out of five homes in the neighborhoods it serviced. In an effort to keep customers, Google’s cable competitors have responded by increasing the highest tier Internet speed they offer.
For Time Warner Cable, that means a 300 Mbps connection, while Comcast offers Internet up to 150 Mbps and Charter offers 100 Mbps in some areas.
AT&T also offers a fiber optic Gigabit Internet service in Raleigh, Cary, Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Winston-Salem known as U-verse with AT&T GigaPower. It has announced plans to expand in Durham, Greensboro and Charlotte.
AT&T’s service is $120 per month with a one-year contract. According to the Google Fiber support website, its Gigabit service is $70 per month in Austin, Provo and Kansas City.
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