Google Brings TV, Free Internet, And Much Hype To Kansas City

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

KANSAS CITY – Google finally unveiled its plans to bring high-speed Internet and television to this city, betting that residents are willing to pony up to connect to its new fiber-optic network.

We still don’t know when, exactly, the first Kansas City neighborhoods will have the one gigabyte-per-second Google Fiber network pumped into their homes, or which will get it first. But we know what is coming, and what it will cost.

Google is pitting neighborhoods against each other to see who can sign up the most folks. Those interested have to pay $10 to pre-register to have the network connected to their homes. Google divvied Kansas City, Kan., and central Kansas City, Mo., into geographical “fiberhoods.” Homes inside each “fiberhood” won’t be connected until the “fiberhood” as a whole hits a critical mass of 40 to 80 pre-registrations. Pre-registration ends on Sept. 9, but Google didn’t say when homes will actually be connected to the network.

Kevin Lo, general manager for Google Access and the company’s point man for Google Fiber in Kansas City, said that schools, hospitals and community centers in neighborhoods would be connected to the network for free as those neighborhoods went online.

To entice customers into physically connecting to the Google Fiber network, Google will also offer free broadband-paced Internet for up to seven years for households that pay a $300 connection charge. Google will wave the construction fee for residents wanting to pay for the one gigabit network, which starts at $70 per month.

Google also finally confirmed rumors it would include a television package with its Google Fiber service.

Milo Medin, vice president of Access Services at Google, unveiled Google Fiber TV, which will carry hundreds of channels, viewable through a central search menu.

Medin said the television service will host heaps of programming in high definition with tens of thousands of shows and movies on demand. It will also offer exclusive programming to Kansas City, such as educational shows from the University of Kansas Medical Center.

The Google TV package comes with beefed up hardware as well, including a storage box that can record up to eight programs at once and a Nexus 7 tablet by way of a remote control.

All this is a bit more than the free package. For the crowd that wants Google Fiber TV with their gigabit Internet, they’ll pay $120 a month.

Google Fiber, which the company anticipates will be 100 times faster than the typical Internet connection, is the first network of its kind in the country. Currently, the U.S. falls behind much of the developed world in its connection speed. Google CFO Patrick Pichette said that the accessibility and connection speed have remained stagnant in the U.S., as storage capacity and computing power have skyrocketed.

It’s been over a year since Lo announced Google had “boots on the ground” in Kansas City, working on the Google Fiber network. In that time, plans, projects, Metamucil jokes and a host of rumors popped up in anticipation of the high speed network.

Over 1,100 cities courted Google for the network. Topeka, Kan., even changed its name in hopes of wooing the super-fast network to the city. But last year Google picked a winner: Kansas City.

Google spokeswoman Jenna Wandres said that Kansas City was an attractive site for launching the virgin network because of its telecommunications infrastructure.

The mayors of both Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., have gone out of their way to accommodate Google and get the town pumped up for the new network. Mayors Sly James and Joe Reardon created the Mayor’s Bistate Innovation Team, which produced the “playbook” for capitalizing on the network.

Until Thursday, Google remained tight lipped about details on its plans for Kansas City.

Filings with the Federal Communications Commission seemed to hint that Google might offer online television along with its Internet packages. But Google wouldn’t comment.

Some observers speculated that the network might add smart grid capabilities to Kansas City. But Google wouldn’t comment.

Even the company’s competitor Time Warner wanted more information, and was willing to pay its employees for tips on what’s going on.

Some questions were answered today.

But what exactly will come out of the new network in Kansas City?

There’s still more plenty of waiting and seeing ahead.

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