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It's Official: Google Fiber Is Coming to Austin

Austin will be second city in nation to host ultrafast network

By Brandon Watson, Fri., April 12, 2013

Google Gaggle: VP for Google Access Services Milo Medin, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Gov. Rick Perry, Council Member Laura Morrison, and Google GM for Fiber Kevin Lo
Google Gaggle: VP for Google Access Services Milo Medin, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Gov. Rick Perry, Council Member Laura Morrison, and Google GM for Fiber Kevin Lo
Photo by Michael King

With giddy anticipation posted on national tech blogs, local outlets citing "unnamed sources," and Google themselves appearing to jump the gun, Tuesday's announcement that Google Fiber will be coming to Austin was hardly a surprise. But that did not dampen the excitement in the long lines waiting to get into Brazos Hall.

First things first, however. Guests at the news conference were advised that entering the building gave Google exclusive rights to all "footage." Once that was agreed upon, the proceedings took on a less than high-speed pace. Perhaps bored of the wait, Council Member Mike Martinez couldn't quite hold in his glee – tweeting to Forbes: "Are we the most overrated city now?"

It's Official: Google Fiber Is Coming to Austin

Almost 15 minutes in, Mayor Lee Leffingwell began: "There's one particular resource need we've heard about loud and clear. ... We're about to get it." The news was greeted with resounding applause from the audience, including visiting dignitaries Rep. Mark Strama and former Mayors Will Wynn and Bruce Todd. The proceedings quickly took on the air of a rock show, complete with rapturous Google groupies. It was fitting that Council Member Laura Morrison joked about Austin becoming "the live music capital of the web."

The extension of service is a logical next step for Google's ultrafast fiber-optic network. Austin hosts offices for several tech giants – including Facebook, Apple, and Dell – and the laxer regulatory environment presents less infrastructure hurdles. In 2010 Austin made a public bid for Fiber, ultimately losing to Kansas City, Kansas, in 2011.

According to the Google reps, Austin will be getting the same package offered in Kansas City -- including Internet, TV, and DVR. For now, the TV service is limited and does not include some premium channels like HBO. Google advised that "fiberhoods" will be determined by sufficient demand. The rollout will begin in 2014, but it may be wise for Austinites to not get their hopes up. Although Google began building infrastructure in 2011, Kansas City is still waiting for Fiber to be a reality.

Still, the announcement gave both Austin and Google bragging rights. The move seems to indicate that Google is serious about getting into the Internet service provider business. When Fiber was first announced, many speculated that it was merely an attempt to embarrass ISPs into providing quicker speeds, thus optimizing Google's search engine. But if Kansas City is any indication, Fiber could present a serious challenge to Time Warner Cable's dominance in the Austin market. The service offers approximately 100 times the speed of average U.S. home Internet connections at competitive price points.

The one-gigabit-per-second speed may also accelerate Austin's already burgeoning tech hub. Fiber has already made Kansas City attractive to several start-ups. With some of the kinks worked out from the original rollout, some observers are expecting another tech boom for Austin. Indeed, just a couple of hours after the Google announcement, AT&T sent out a press release saying that it too is planning to get into the one-gigabit game.

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