Google Fiber is Coming to Town
How about that, Google Fiber is coming to my town:
LAKEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver suburb of Lakewood will become the first city in Colorado to receive Google Fiber’s optic-based, fiber-to-the-home internet service, the company announced Thursday.
Google Fiber plans to begin construction in Lakewood in 2023, and it’s expected to take several years before the work is totally complete. Service will become available as the company completes segments of the network.
“Google Fiber is fast, but network construction is … well, we’ll go as fast as we can, while prioritizing safety and minimizing disruption to traffic and to neighborhoods,” Sasha Petrovic, Google Fiber’s southwest region general manager, said in the announcement.
While this would have been major excitement ten years ago, today it’s just a third gigabit option. We already have Xfinity at 1.4 Gbps as well as an ongoing Lumen FTTH build that will probably reach half the homes in the city when it’s done. But it’s certainly good news.
Google Fiber is not without benefits. It’s a symmetrical network that offers gigabit upstream, a huge upgrade from the 40 Mbps I get from Xfinity. This will make by video uploads to YouTube quite a bit snappier.
But Xfinity has upstream bandwidth improvements in the works, and I suspect it will be fairly competitive with Google by the time the latter network reaches my neighborhood. The pricing for Google Fiber is $10 – 30/month better than Xfinity, so that’s also a plus.
Google offers phone service for $10 over the base price of broadband Internet, and it relies on YouTube TV for video. Google doesn’t appear to offer bundle pricing for YouTube TV, but they do offer a free trial for Fiber customers.
This is all subject to change over the two to four years until the service is live, so we’ll see.
City Government is Excited
Lakewood will be the first city in Colorado to host Google Fiber, which definitely gives city government some bragging rights. Check the announcement:
“Everyone needs to be connected today whether it’s for school or work, and I think adding Google Fiber in Lakewood is a great step in the right direction,” said Mayor Adam Paul. “Internet connectivity is as important as having water and electricity, and we need to ensure we have robust systems in place to serve our residents and our businesses.”
The city is providing updates on the progress of the build through a resource page. Part of the story is a ballot measure passed in 2019 that allowed city staff to court Google:
In 2019, Lakewood voters approved a city ballot question that reestablished Lakewood’s right to provide all telecommunications services, high-speed internet services (advanced services), and cable television services restricted since 2005 by the Colorado General Assembly with the passage of Senate Bill 05-152. With its passage, voters sentiments were made clear and the city began working to bring additional providers to Lakewood. Direct talks with Google Fiber began earlier in 2022.
Similar ballot measures have passed in 100+ Colorado cities but none of them led to a Google build. Oddly, the Lakewood measure passed by the thinnest margin of them all, but these measures aren’t enthusiasm gauges.
Ancillary Benefits are Possible
Lakewood is a typical bedroom community where the largest business sectors are housing, retail, and restaurants. The city has a technology center, but it consists of a carpet store and a CrossFit gym.
Faster residential broadband isn’t a business draw in an area that already has ample commercial fiber, but it will be a draw for those who work from home, especially in tech industries. Nearby Denver has been courting 5G buildouts for some time, so that city will remain the “most connected” in the Rocky Mountain front range region.
Google won’t have any impact on connecting the schools as that project is well in hand. The school district contracted with Lumen for fiber hookups in 2008, and is currently building its own fiber network, JeffcoNet with a goal of massively increasing bandwidth.
Cable TV Bundles Take a Hit
I suspect, without much evidence, that the main impact of second and third gigabit networks is felt by cable TV bundles. It’s no secret that linear TV is fading fast:
The U.S. base [of linear TV] is down to 66% of TV households, LRG said, vs. 79% five years ago … and 88% a decade ago.
What we find interesting is the number of consumers, mostly younger adult ones, who have never had pay TV service … and who likely never will.
Every time a consumer signs up for gigabit fiber, a cable bundle loses its wings. The user experience doesn’t change much when we replace a cable bundle with Directv Stream, YouTube TV, Sling, or Hulu+, we just lose the in-home DVR in favor of a Cloud DVR. Cloud DVRs aren’t as functional as cable company or TiVo DVR but they’re good enough.
Streaming vs. Cable Bundles
All in all, streaming doesn’t save much over linear bundles, but it does improve video quality and choice. It also makes disputes between RSNs and cablecos a thing of the past.
Denver Nuggets games have not been available over Xfinity for three years due to a contract dispute, but streaming services such as Directv Stream, Fubo, and Evoca offer them. Customizing and changing details of streaming packages tends to be easier than dealing with a cable company.
Customer interaction with streaming services is web-based, the only sensible way to compare bundles. While cable personnel are pleasant, well-trained, and polite, I’ve found it much more convenient to compare packages online than over the phone. I need to see the lists.
We’re entering an era where we have an abundance of choice for residential and mobile broadband as well as entertainment services. Convergence is real and it’s here now: Cable leads in mobile and mobile leads in broadband.