It’s been a while since we’ve heard about the Google Fiber project, which aims to bring a 1 Gb/s FTTP network to a city, town, or series of towns. Google says they received over 1,100 applications and we now know at least one winner. Kansas City will get the ultra fast Google Fiber network.

“We’ve signed a development agreement with the city, and we’ll be working closely with local organizations, businesses and universities to bring a next-generation web experience to the community,” Google announced on their blog this morning.

The deal is awaiting approval from the city’s Board of Commissioners, but Google expects the network to go live some time in 2012. Kansas City Mayor Joe Reardon said the network will provide free broadband access to Kansas City schools and government offices. The city government is contributing significantly to the development of the network, but details are lacking at the time of this posting.

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In making the announcement at a live event in Kansas City, Google CFO Patrick Pichette said “Kansas City is our first city,” suggesting more cities may be selected in the future. Additionally, Google Fiber Vice President of Access Services, Milo Medin said that the Kansas City deployment is “…a beginning, not the end.” Who will be next?

The Google fiber project selected Kansas City based on a number of factors, but Medin outlined three key factors at the announcement:

  • It’s a location that they felt they could build quickly
  • It’s a location they felt they could have a large impact on economic development quickly
  • They felt the Kansas City community offered great partnerships with local government and community

From my vantage point, the selection of Kansas City was a larger market than I expected. It’s a pretty significant sized city for a 1 Gb/s FTTP network, which according to plan, will be delivered to every home and business in the city. I thought they would have selected a smaller market for this first experiment.

It’s not entirely clear how this network will operate. Will it be an open access network, where other service providers actually deliver services/applications to retail customers? Will Google operate the actual network, or just facilitate its development, construction, and operation? Interesting questions to ponder for a very interesting development in telecom.

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11 thoughts on “Kansas City Wins Google Fiber Network Prize

    1. Getting SureWest's take would make a great follow-up article. Their stock is up over a percent, not on this news, but on their dividend announcement.

  1. It’s a location that they felt they could build quickly, Interesting questions to ponder for a very interesting development in telecom.They can’t be thrilled about it.

  2. If I recall correctly, they have previously said that they will own and operate the network, running it on an open access basis. They have talked with UTOPIA and hired engineers with experience with unbundling, so it will be interesting to see exactly how they implement it.

  3. Three questions immediately come to mind:

    (1) How much is Kansas City going to have to pony up to make this happen? I wonder if it will be in cash, in-kind resources, or both?
    (2) How will the network operate? Will the City's I.T. Department be responsible for managing the network?
    (3) Any guesses to how much per household passed or drop installed to get 50,000 potential users? Is Google committed to bringing FTTH where only one service such as dial tone? Do you think Google/KCCity will allow Level3, Cox Cable, AT&T to use this network free of charge?

  4. I live in KC so I've been following this pretty closely. They have said they plan to operate as an open access network, and according to the KC Star this morning, both Time Warner and Sprint are very happy (yeah, right.). No mention of SureWest.

  5. Interesting thing here is Google has enough cash that they could make any approach 'look' like its working. Per @Roger, your points are valid, but Google won't care about those things. This is there showcase network to prove all those theories like YouTube SHOULD use the network for free. They'll be able to point to their KC experiment and say – "see it works, what's all the fuss about." They'll be able to subsidize it at any cost and then put pressure on all other service providers to replicate their grand experiment.

    What I hope is they are totally transparent with all of the costs (CAPEX and OPEX) so we can have a real discussion of what an access network should/can look like and not based on some grandiose subsidized Google experiment.

  6. Yes, agreed, the economics just don't work to be adding a fourth provider, which worsens the long term economics, as the three current providers will have to squeeze what they can out of copper and coaxial in the last mile. Instead of Google playing the role to build out where fiber does not exist today, in a collaborative build (yes neighborhoods only torn up once), it forces players to squeeze or build fiber later. If you have 4 toll roads, who pays for the economic inefficiency. Answer: everyone does.

    Like Google's push for all fiber, just how they are doing it, which there are plenty examples of Municipalties (and countries like Australia) building an all fiber network on their own, only to turn into a tax burden for the citizens.

    Randy Markway http://www.lightthewaysolutions.com

  7. Yes, agreed, the economics just don't work to be adding a fourth provider, which worsens the long term economics, as the three current providers will have to squeeze what they can out of copper and coaxial in the last mile. Instead of Google playing the role to build out where fiber does not exist today, in a collaborative build (yes neighborhoods only torn up once), it forces players to squeeze or build fiber later. If you have 4 toll roads, who pays for the economic inefficiency. Answer: everyone does.

    Like Google's push for all fiber, just how they are doing it, which there are plenty examples of Municipalties (and countries like Australia) building an all fiber network on their own, only to turn into a tax burden for the citizens.

    Randy Markway http://www.lightthewaysolutions.com

  8. RE: SureWest

    It's important to note that the Google project is for Kansas City, Kansas. I'm pretty sure SureWest is only in the Kansas City, Missouri area.

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