Editor's note: This story is republished with permission from Next American City.
From bridges to high-speed rail, the U.S. frequently lags behind other developed nations in infrastructure investment and development. One increasingly vital piece of infrastructure that has kept Americans envious is Internet speed.
Consider these numbers: The average connection speed in the U.S. is roughly 5 Mbps, or megabits per second. By comparison, South Korea’s is nearly 18 Mbps. But of course, that’s tech-savvy South Korea. What about a former communist country like Romania? The average speed there is 15 Mbps. In fact, the U.S. Internet speed ranking is a far-from-respectable 26th place.
But the country may be on track to make a comeback. Last week, Google announced the beginning of its Google Fiber services in Kansas City, chosen last year as winner of the tech giant’s search for a city to launch itself as, among many other things, an Internet service provider. Passing over cities like Austin, Texas, Google chose Kansas City, Kansas originally and enlarged its vision to also include the larger Missouri city across the river.
Since deciding on Kansas City, Google has been doing the necessary studies to roll out its fiber network. But that doesn’t mean that since the service officially began last week, residents are already happily using Google Internet.
Rather, Google has given different neighborhoods — cutely called Fiberhoods — the chance to pre-register. This will show Google which areas have the most enthusiasm and which to build in first. Once you know your Fiberhood has been chosen, residents will be able to choose three service options: For $70-$120 a month, you can get 1 Gbps internet in your house, plus television services and some new Google gizmos. And for those who don’t really care for high-speed internet, for a one-time $300 construction fee, residents can get free average speed internet.
So, what’s so special about Google Fiber? First off, the speed: Nearly 1000 Mbps, or 1Gbps (that’s gigabits per second). That blows South Korea miles away, and is about a hundred times faster than what most Americans have now. Movies could be downloaded and uploaded in less than a minute. Buffering videos would become a thing of the past. And would videoconferencing could happen without freezes and blurry images.
Next page: Google Fiber tested at Stanford University