The hot story last week here in Charlotte was the announcement of Google choosing Charlotte, NC as one of its next cities to receive its coveted Google Fiber gigabit broadband internet service.
So, what’s the big deal?
From Google’s FAQ page, “the benchmark for broadband speeds is 4 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. Compare this to Google Fiber, which gives you up to a gigabit (1000 Mbps) for both downloading and uploading. That is over 100 times faster than basic broadband speeds”. However, the story goes beyond just the speed of internet service.
Recently we had the chance to reach out to Alan Fitzpatrick, the COO of DC74 Data Centers and one of the founding members of the grass roots organization, Charlotte Hearts Gigabit. Alan was able to give us a bit of an inside track on everything that has happened over the last several months as well as the months to come regarding Google Gigabit and other gigabit options coming to Charlotte.
Read on for the details from our Q/A session with Alan.
Q: How long will it take to implement the service here in Charlotte?
A: Google Fiber reports that it’s too soon to share an exact date or plans. When they implemented new fiber networks in Kansas City and Austin it took 20 months from the time of announcement until the first customer was activated. We believe that Google Fiber’s first step will be building the fiber ring and all of the Fiber Huts. This step may take 9-12 months. At that point individual neighborhood builds could be considered. We are excited that Charlotte was selected for a Google Fiber build, but we will need to be patient over the next couple of years.
Q: Have specific Charlotte areas/neighborhoods been selected to roll out the service first? What is the criteria?
A: Google Fiber reports that it’s too soon to share an exact date or plans. The process for neighborhood consideration is…
1) Check your address to see if Fiber is available in your area. Google Fiber will make sure you’re among the first to know when they are coming to your fiberhood.
2) Google will survey fiberhoods to determine the level of interest. You can only get Fiber if enough people in your fiberhood sign up. It is important to get as many neighbors as possible to sign up during the initial canvassing as they don’t plans to return to fiberhoods once their sign-up periods have ended.
To get Google Fiber installed, every neighborhood has to reach a pre-determined goal.
Typically, Google requires that somewhere between 5% and 25% of all households put down the $10 pre-registration fee to signal their interest in the service. All of the neighborhoods that reach their goals will get Google Fiber installed in their area. The order in which Google will install its fiber-optic lines will be determined by percentage of households that signed up for the service in each neighborhood.
Q: What are the major advantages for a city with regards to gigabit internet?
A: The killer application for Gigabit Internet in a city appears to be Economic Development. Here are three examples of cities which installed Gigabit Internet networks, and the impact it had on the economy:
Cedar Falls, IA – “Twenty years ago we had 27 businesses and $5m in taxable valuation. Today there are 160 businesses and $270M in valuation.”
Martinsville, VA – Fiber network attracted defense contractor SPARTA Inc.’s research center, American Distribution and Warehousing, and ICF International (500+ jobs).
Powell, WY – FTTH system allows 150 certified teachers, working from their homes, to teach English to South Korea using high-speed videoconferencing.
In Kansas City, the first Google Fiber city, they reported an increase in entrepreneurship activity and an increased ability to attract talent to the city. The mere threat of Google Fiber in a city has resulted in the incumbent ISPs improving their service levels and reducing their prices. In Charlotte AT&T has already announced rolling out their GigaPower product, and Time Warner Cable has announced that their MAXX product will be deployed here. In Kansas City Time Warner Cable tripled their Internet speeds with no increase in cost.
Community collaboration is another benefit for Gigabit cities. Numerous people in Kansas City told us that the Google Fiber project brought together the two-state metro area more than anything seen to date. Groups started to work with each other to improve the good for the community. HOAs started pitching in to pay the fees for residents to access the fiber. Libraries, schools and faith based groups were heavily engaged as well.
Q: What are the goals of the Charlotte Hearts Gigabit initiative? How could someone get involved if possible?
A: Our grassroots team consists of entrepreneurs and tech geeks who believe a Gigabit Internet infrastructure will be great for Charlotte. The group was founded by Terry Cox, President of the Business Innovation & Growth Council, Candice Langston, Director of Development & Strategic Partnerships at UNCC, and Alan Fitzpatrick, COO of DC74 Data Centers. We have a large group of volunteers within the community. Our mission is to encourage the ISPs to build a residential Gigabit Internet infrastructure in Charlotte, to keep the community updated on progress, and to encourage community collaboration and entrepreneurship.
We are actively looking for volunteers and sponsors to support us in this effort. Please sign up for our monthly newsletter on our website, http://charlotteheartsgigabit.com, and follow us on Twitter (@CltHeartsGb). We post Events and Resources on our website. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be a volunteer or to inquire about sponsorship of our efforts.
Q: What other gigabit services may be coming to Charlotte? When?
A: AT&T announced that GigaPower will be deployed in Charlotte. While they have not announced a date, we heard from individuals in Charlotte that AT&T technicians are actively upgrading the network in their neighborhoods. GigaPower offers Internet broadband speeds up to 1 gigabit per second, AT&T’s fastest home Internet speed in the U.S. Specific locations of availability and pricing for the Charlotte market will be released at a later date. AT&T recently announced that they will be hiring 100 additional fiber technicians due to increased demand in North Carolina.
Time Warner Cable announced that Charlotte has been selected for their higher speed Internet service. While it isn’t Gigabit speed, it is significantly faster that their existing service levels. The Internet transformation includes speed increases on TWC residential Internet plans at no additional cost, with customers experiencing increases up to six times faster, depending on their current level of speed. For example, customers who subscribe to Standard Service, formerly up to 15 Mbps, will now receive up to 50 Mbps, customers who subscribe to Extreme, formerly up to 30 Mbps, will now receive up to 200 Mbps, and customers who subscribe to the Ultimate plan, formerly up to 100 Mbps, will receive up to 300 Mbps, at no extra charge.
Q: If I want gigabit internet from Google Fiber or any other upcoming provider, what should I do?
A: Sign up on their mailing lists.
For Google Fiber sign up on this webpage: https://fiber.google.com/cities/charlotte/home/
For AT&T GigaPower sign up on this webpage: http://www.att.com/att/gigapowercities/
TWC does not appear to have a sign up at this time.
Q: Will Google be implementing the entire system from scratch here in Charlotte or will they be leasing/purchasing an existing infrastructure?
A: We’ve been told that Charlotte will be a new build, and not a purchase of an existing fiber network. We asked why and were told that no existing network as suitable to meeting their requirements.
Q: What other things should Charlotte know about Google Fiber and any other upcoming gigabit providers?
A: The ISPs are going to give us tools, but it will be up to us in the community on how we will leverage them. The community needs to be co-creators of a ‘game plan’ and not just wait for the ISPs to deliver the infrastructure. The City of Charlotte will be conducting a regular series of meetings with community groups to determine how we can leverage the infrastructure to benefit the citizens.
Entrepreneurs need to start considering a world with Gigabit connections to the home, and all the new web applications that may become possible. Universities need to consider how Gigabit to a student’s home will impact the ‘flipped classroom’, real-time massive open online courses, and R&D activity. Businesses need to start considering what residential Gigabit service will mean for their remote workers. A Gigabit VPN between a home user and a business will become a reality.
This is an exciting time for Charlotte. Let’s make the most of it.