Google’s high-speed Internet might be slow to arrive

“Amazing!”

That’s the impression Google Fiber‘s Internet speed had on Erin Vader, Olathe’s communication and public engagement manager, when she first watched a demonstration from Google’s office in Kansas City, Kan.

“I thought it would be just another Internet provider coming to the city,” she said. “But until you see it…it’s pretty amazing how fast it is; it’s just like watching TV. Right now, sometimes it can take awhile to upload information, like videos: it stops and loads and stops and loads. With Google Fiber, we were watching like five or six YouTube videos and doing other things all at the same time with no breaks.”

The Olathe City Council last week (March 19) approved and announced its agreement with Google Fiber to become the first major city in Johnson County to get its high-speed Internet service, which includes television. But despite Google’s as-of-yet unmatched speed on the Internet, it’s timeline to create the infrastructure and lay the fiber that will allow the formation of fiberhoods in Olathe, the Internet leader of speed must first adhere to the old-fashioned ways of permits and construction.

Vader said Google hasn’t released any timeline plans and added it could take up to two years before Olatheans can begin signing up for the service. Google officials could not be reached.

“Google is limited with the information they provide us and won’t commit to any kind of a timetable,” she said. “They are directing the media, basically anybody, to their website: google.com/fiber, which provides updates and where the company also maintains a blog.

“But if we’re looking at how things have gone in KCK and KCMO, I think we hope to have everything into (Olathe’s) homes within two years. But I know we’ll also be working as diligently as we can to get that moving a little faster.”

As part of the agreement, Google will provide up to four public facilities for up to 10 years, she said, which could be based on demand. The deal also calls for Google to provide free WIFI to the city government, which includes areas open to the public. For example, it can be used in public places such as the libraries but cannot be used in residential homes or businesses.

“In KCK, one of the first areas to see (Google Fiber) in the homes was Piper,” Vader said. “They are just now getting it into the Piper schools, which was Google’s first school. We’re a little bit unique, and in a good way, in that we have one school district within the city, so one of our public facilities, and I’m sort of speculating, but I think we’ve all agreed, is that one of the public facilities will be the school district.

“So if they do one drop it will service the entire Olathe public school system where as in KCK they are looking at a bunch of different school districts in the city.”

Vader said Olathe competed for Google Fiber more than two years ago when the company was looking for a city to debut it’s high-speed Internet connection.

“We were one of the cities requesting they come to Olathe first,” she said. “So we’ve been involved in the discussion now since 2011. Things started to heat up in the past few months when they got a little more committal to expand outside of KCK and KCMO.”

Vader said she’s not sure how the entry of Google Fiber into Olathe will affect current Internet and TV providers Comcast, AT&T U-verse, and SureWest.

“It’s another player in the market and, at this point, if you look at (the connection speed and broadband speed of Comcast, AT&T U-verse, and SureWest) versus (Google Fiber), they don’t have a product that competes,” she said. “For so long Comcast had the market in Olathe. Then SureWest came and then AT&T U-verse and now Google.

“As a consumer, I would hope that costs would go down.”

According to Tim McKee, CEO of the Olathe Chamber of Commerce, even though Google Fiber is targeting residential areas rather than the business community, the city and its economy is going to benefit.

“They are providing the services in homes and not businesses,” he said. “Why? I don’t know. I hope it will change and I think it ultimately will; they told us six or seven months ago they would never come to Johnson County but that obviously changed.

“But I think even if it isn’t opened up to businesses right away and it’s only on the residential side, number one, I think Olathe could become and will be a great location for a home-based business. Think about it, you have fiber access at levels no one else in the country has and you have (Gov. Sam Brownback’s) tax plan to eliminate income tax for small businesses, then home-based businesses are going to reap the benefits of that.

“Secondly, I think Google Fiber allows us to attract very talented, highly educated people to our community and, therefore, helps with our workforce in regard to businesses as well. If you’re an executive or a young person, why wouldn’t you want to live in Olathe that has a great quality of life and also now has that Internet access at speeds no one else in the country can touch.

“And then related to that, to some extent, is our schools; they are going to drop that into our schools.”

McKee said he wasn’t sure how MidAmerica Nazarene University and the Johnson County Education and Research Triangle fits into Google’s plans.

“But I think that if you’re MNU and let’s say they don’t give it to the university but they will put it in the dorms, then if I’m trying to attract young students to my university, I would be playing that up and using that as a marketing tool: We will have super high-end speed Internet in all our dorms and living areas. You can go to Baker or you can go to KU or to K-State, but you can’t have that high-speed Internet that we’ll have here at MidAmerica Nazarene University,” he said.

When Google went into Kansas City, Kan., it conducted neighborhood rallies to create what it calls fiberhoods that generally consists of 800 homes to determine the need and the demand for Google Fiber. Vader said she expects Google to do the same in Olathe.

“I think they’ll try to generate grassroots excitement and work with the city to establish those fiberhoods,” she said. “I know it’s going to be beneficial to the city. We’ll be able to improve our efficiency and speed and capacity. From our video standpont, the speed at which we can process things will be significantly enhanced.

“Beyond that, I don’t think we even know what this can do for this community.”

 

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