Provo recently released their Google Fiber commercial and Brandon Hassler and I got a tour of the new Google Fiber Space in the Riverwoods along with a great demo of what Google Fiber really is. We met some great people, saw some cool hardware, and sat through demos of the TV and super-fast internet. Since most of Provo is waiting for an installation to be scheduled, here’s a little preview of what it will mean to you.
For an installation fee of $30, everyone can have access to free internet at 5 Mbps. That speed isn’t blazing fast, but it’s blazing fast for free. You pay the $30 and Google will install the system and provide the hardware so you can have both wired and wireless connections in your home. I have neighbors who still connect with dial-up modems and ask me why their genealogy sites don’t work. If I have to pay the $30 myself, I will.
For $70, you can upgrade to the fastest internet you have ever experienced. If you are connected via a wired connection (if you plug a cable in to get internet) you can get 1Gbps speeds. It is difficult to explain how blazingly fast that is, but let me try. During the demo, our host started 10 YouTube videos at the same time and then tested our speed and we still had about 60% of the bandwidth available. The practical benefit of this is no more yelling up the stairs at the kids to find out if they are hogging all the bandwidth on Netflix while I’m trying to be productive (Facebook) downstairs. And if you have ever tried to put your kids to sleep to Stuart Edge or Kid History videos you know how painful it can be to stare at YouTube while it is buffering. With a 1Gbps Google Fiber connection, buffering is a thing of the past.
We watched as they downloaded a 4k YouTube video (4k is Ultra HD, so it’s a big file — the slowest possible video download). The video started immediately, looked amazing, and they could skip to any point in the video without waiting for it to buffer. Then we went to the Google Art Project site and looked at Van Gogh’s Starry night. (Even if you make the mistake of NOT signing up for Google Fiber, take a look at this amazing project.) We zoomed in to see the texture left by Van Gogh’s paintbrush with zero latency. It’s mind bogglingly cool. Things that you might give up on with a slower connection are so easy you could take them for granted.
(Note that if you connect to your internet wirelessly, you will probably only achieve 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps speeds. Yeah — it’s funny to use “only” in that sentence, but it’s 1/5th to 1/1oth of what you can get if you are wired so “only” seems appropriate.)
For $120, you can get not just the super-fast internet, but also a pretty slick TV package including a DVR. OK, I’m sort of a DVR snob. For years I have snubbed what I considered to be a substandard DVR experience provided by my cable provider in favor of Tivo. So when I sat down in the couch in front of the Google TV, I fully expected to be disappointed, but I wasn’t. It’s slick. Netflix and Vudu are integrated into the package so if you have accounts there, you can search for shows on TV, in your recordings, and on Netflix and Vudu simultaneously. There is also plenty of On Demand content. The DVR comes with 2TB of storage (that’s a lot) and you can save your own media there, making it searchable as well.
If you order the TV package, you also get a Nexus 7 tablet to use how you want. There is, of course, a Google Fiber app (for both Android and iOS) that will allow you to see your DVR content, change channels, and even watch the local channels (NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, PBS, etc) right on the Nexus as long as you are connected to your home Google Fiber internet.
It’s the full package — premium channels (HBO, etc) cost more, but every TV package comes with a ton of channels, great search, and parental controls. The only downside? No AMC. No Root Sports (Jazz Games). Let’s start a petition.
Because the first comment on every post about Google Fiber is always a complaint about how Google has forgotten small businesses, let me just say, this: Google Fiber is currently primarily targeting homes, not businesses but at some point there will be some sort of SMB offering. Until then, if you need a static IP address, call Comcast. The good news is that because Google Fiber is in town, they have drastically lowered their prices.
The best part of Google Fiber coming to Provo, however, isn’t any of this. They can’t show us the best part because nobody knows what it will mean when everyone has internet access and many of us have 1Gbps connections (up and down). The only thing we know is that it should mean innovation. Recording eight shows at once is, to be honest, a dream come true for me but I’m most excited about what will come when a talented developer with an idea and some energy realizes that she can solve a problem that couldn’t be solved before. When someone decides to start streaming classroom lectures from my daughter’s middle school for kids that are sick because they can, that is when we will start to understand what a completely fiber connected city can mean.
As of today, the Google Fiber Space is open to the public. Google is throwing a free concert tonight (Friday, January 24th) in The Riverwoods from 6-8pm. The Strike and New Electric Sound, two of Provo’s hottest bands, will be performing and free hot chocolate will be served. Whether you have already signed up for Google Fiber or are still considering it, you’ve got to head over to the new Google Fiber Space and try it out for yourself.