PROVO — Google Fiber’s 1 gigabit Internet connection is fast.
How fast? If average broadband Internet speeds are the equivalent of driving 8.6 mph, Google Fiber's 1 gigabit speeds can reach 1,024 mph.
Provo residents are one step closer to having access to those speeds in their homes. Google announced Oct. 2 that Veracity customers could sign up through Oct. 31 for Google Fiber.
The first installations should be complete within the next few weeks, according to Jenna Wandres, spokeswoman for Google Fiber.
“I think they have the resources to really take advantage of iProvo the way that we’d hoped, and it would give us the services that it was built for,” said Nathan Hadfield, a Provo resident who's signed up for Google Fiber.
The Hadfields use Internet for all their news and TV consumption, as well as video conferencing for Hadfield, who works from home. He said he’s looking forward to being able to back up his computer in a few minutes instead of several hours.
“A lot of the things we do probably won’t seem that much faster, at least initially," Hadfield said, "but I think the ability to use other networks for storage will impact me the most personally right away.”
Coming to Provo
In mid-April, Provo Mayor John Curtis announced that Provo would be the third city to have Google Fiber. Though the announcements in Provo and Austin, Texas, were just a week apart, Provo is further along in the process because the city essentially gave Google an existing fiber-optic network called iProvo.
Residential Veracity customers in Provo are the first to have access to Google Fiber because their Internet service already uses the iProvo network. Google just needs to upgrade it to handle 1 gigabit speeds — a task Google has been working on since before the public announcement.
In November Google will schedule installation appointments with those who signed up early, with hopes to have them switched over to Google Fiber within six months.
What is it?
Google Fiber uses a fiber-optic network to provide fast and powerful Internet, as well as TV service. The three Google Fiber plans require a network box, which is essentially a router included in the one-time $30 activation fee.
After residents are connected, they will have three services options. The first is a 5 megabit connection — 5 megabits per second download, 1 megabit per second upload — free for at least seven years.
The next two options include a terabyte of cloud storage and a 1 gigabit Internet connection for $70 a month or $120 a month if customers add a TV package that requires a two-year contract and includes a Nexus 7 tablet to use as a remote control.
Who will have access?
Eventually, all Provo residents along the existing iProvo footprint will be offered Google Fiber, but first in line are Veracity customers because their Internet service already uses the iProvo infrastructure.
Those customers can opt to continue service with Veracity over a copper VDSL network or go with Google Fiber.
Business customers will remain on Veracity’s own fiber network, which is separate from the iProvo network, according to Drew Peterson, CEO of Veracity Networks. Peterson said Veracity plans to expand its fiber network for businesses in the coming months.
Some of the iProvo network needs to be replaced, and all of it needs to be upgraded, but the fact that it’s already there greatly simplifies the process, according to Provo Deputy Mayor Corey Norman.
After residential Veracity customers are taken care of, Google Fiber will be rolled out somewhat geographically through Provo neighborhoods. Eligible non-Veracity customers and Veracity customers who missed the October window can start signing up in January 2014.
Google Fiber will be available to most homes along the iProvo network, which is the majority of Provo residences. Eligibility can be determined by entering an address on the Google Fiber website.
According to Wandres, Google would like to extend the fiber network to reach everyone at some point but not as part of the beginning rounds of installations.
“Google really feels — and this is something unique to them and just a handful of other companies — that Internet is as essential as air and water and those essential things that you need for life," Norman said, "and so they feel access to information is just as important.”
Provo officials are reviewing applications for 25 nonprofit organizations to receive 1 gigabit Internet service, provided for free by Google as part of the Google Fiber Community Connections program.
What about multi-dwelling units?
Provo renters have differing opinions on Google Fiber. Internet service is usually anywhere between $30 and $70 a month for many student apartments for speeds around 10–18 Mbps.
For some renters, the Google Fiber service with 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload will feel slower. The service is free.
They’ll have the option to upgrade their service, which for many people will be comparable in price if they get the $70 1 gigabit connection. Many tenants will also still be able to choose a separate Internet provider such Comcast or CenturyLink.
According to Jeremiah Maughan, who manages almost 1,000 properties in Provo and has been working with Google representatives, most managers will put their units on Google Fiber even though it might upset some renters because they’ll be getting slower speeds if they don’t want to pay $70 a month.
“When we were used to that discounted pricing and our customers are all used to that discounted pricing, to find out that pricing was going to disappear was kind of jarring to a lot of the owners, the tenants and the managers,” Maughan said.
Google won’t be offering discounted rates for bulk buying, but it has worked with Provo in other ways, such as offering gigabit service without a contract to accommodate the student population that moves around a lot.
“We’ve spent a lot of time talking to them and let them know some of our concerns,” Maughan said. “And while they have zero intention of ever adjusting their packages as far as I’m aware they’re at least willing to work with us on contracts and installations so that we can accommodate the different types of properties and tenants that we have here in Provo.”
The installation bill will be $30 per unit — much cheaper than the $300 fee in Kansas City, Kan., because Google hasn’t needed to build fiber in Provo.
“The Google reps have told us that the only reason they’re here is because Provo already has fiber,” Maughan said. “The fact that we have the infrastructure is a really big deal.”
The student population
“Internet is essential for college work, and we’re excited about it,” said Noelle Goodine, a sophomore at BYU.
Goodine is a resident at Alpine Village, the first apartment complex in Provo to get Google Fiber. She said her current Internet gets slow because so many devices are connected to their apartment’s Wi-Fi — often so slow that it impedes her productivity.
She said she’s looking forward to being able to do homework at home.
Google workers are doing preliminary construction and upgrading the current fiber in the basement, according to Alpine Village’s leasing consultant, David Doman. All tenants will have a basic 5 megabit connection and the option of purchasing a 1 gigabit connection.
Norman said Google Fiber is a technology upgrade invaluable to Provo. He said quality of life will increase, as well as students’ abilities to mature ideas off campus.
“That’s what technology does,” he said. “It shrinks the world to such a significant degree that it’s amazing and a huge benefit to the community.”