Everyone, and I mean absolutely everyone, wants Google Fiber. And who wouldn’t?
Its service, with 1000 Mbps download and upload speeds, is 100 times faster than the Internet connection that most people have today. That means no more buffering videos, cloud gaming that doesn’t slow down the entire house, and the genesis of HD videoconferencing for the average Joe.
And it’s cheap. The lucky citizens of Kansas City—the first U.S. city to get it from Google—will only pay $120 or $70 for their gig of Internet access. And for those Midwesterners who are happy with a regular old 5Mbps connection, they can get it for free for seven years after paying a $300 construction fee.
Google Fiber has so much beauty, people are literally begging Google to bring it to their cities. Yet fiber doesn’t come without caveats. Here’s a look at some pros and cons.
Pro: ISPs Will Have to React
Competition is good for consumers and it means the cable companies are going to have to switch things up, or die.
For $100 a month, Comcast’s premium Internet connection offers downloads up to 50 Mbps and uploads up to 10 Mbps and that’s with no TV whatsoever. ISPs are going to have to get faster and cheaper, which is good news for consumers.
Pro: No Bandwidth Caps
To its credit, Comcast, which is the leading ISP in the U.S., doesn’t count streaming from its own streaming video service against caps. But check this: Google doesn’t have any caps at all and even includes Netflix in its service when it could have given preferential treatment to its own YouTube and Fiber TV products.
This is huge, especially for people who live in places where cable hasn’t yet arrived (still true in many rural areas) and can only get high speed Internet access through a cellular carrier. In such cases, most of these folks can forget about streaming anything, unless the exorbitant cost of blasting through data caps doesn’t bother them.
Pro: A Super Cool Remote and Option for a Chromebook
The Google Nexus 7 tablet is so hot, you can’t even find one in a store now—at least the 16GB version. But not only is Kansas City the envy of every other metropolis in the U.S., people there who ante up for the Google Fiber with TV get a free Nexus 7 that they can use as a remote, or for consuming media all on its own. While there’s no word on if the free tablet is the 8GB model or 16GB version, does it really matter?
The Google Fiber site also shows the Chromebook as an option for $299. Even though some people have criticized the web-centric laptop, Google recently announced some important improvements to the device. And let’s be honest—you’re not going to find a laptop much cheaper.
Pro: Storage Galore
The DVR box that comes with Google Fiber TV lets users record up to eight shows at one time. Its 2TB hard drive also means you can store as much as 500 hours of HD video. That’s a lot of episodes of “30 Rock” you can have at your beck and call.
And people who opt for the Internet-only version get 1TB of cloud storage on Google Drive. That means a user’s every digital asset can be accessible from any Internet-connected device or computer whenever he or she needs it.
Con: No ESPN
Sports fanatics won't like this. A lot of people can probably live without some of the channels not currently included in Google Fiber TV, such as Disney, AMC, TBS, TNT, and HBO; but the exclusion of ESPN might be a deal killer for some.
Apparently Time Warner’s channel is too rich for Google’s taste. “ESPN charges cable providers around five times more than the average network,” reports Time.
The good news is Google appears to be negotiating with some networks so as to get a more complete offering. By the time Fiber goes live, maybe some of these big guns will be on board.
Con: Don’t Expect it Anytime Soon
Speaking of the rollout of Fiber in Kansas City, it’s not going to happen overnight. After September 9, Google will announce a calendar that shows which neighborhoods will get it when.
The neighborhoods toward the top—based upon which ones have demonstrated their longing for Fiber the most by preregistering the most homes—likely won’t be flying around on the Internet like lightning until mid-2013. As for the rest of the world . . . well, there’s no telling.
Con: Now Google Will Really Know Everything
Google already knows a lot about its users—where we go online, what kinds of things we buy, where we take our Android phones. Some people don’t have a problem with this, and—like Google—feel it helps the search and advertising giant better serve them.
But Google’s track record on privacy is far from spotless. Some people aren’t going to be comfortable with Google also having their TV and movie consumption data, on top of everything else. If that concerns you, check out the Google Fiber Privacy Notice.
Con: For Now, A Gigabit Connection Can be Underwhelming
Fiber users with less-than-stellar equipment or those trying to communicate with others on the Internet not blessed with a great connection aren’t going to hugely impressed with what they’ll get. If you’ve ever tried to Skype with someone working with either of these scenarios, you know what I mean.
As GigaOm points out, “the Internet is reciprocal so it’s no fun if you have the speeds to send a holographic image of yourself but no one on the other end can receive it.” In fact, “underwhelming” describes the experience in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where for the past two years the public utility has offered customers a gigabit fiber-to-the-home connection for about $300 a month.
Still, considering the alternatives—comparably slow and expensive offerings from cable companies—Kansas City getting Google Fiber is akin to the city winning a digital lottery.