Monday, April 14, 2014

Building Connected Communities: Arts Tech in Kansas City

Ed. Note: Every day, nonprofits and community leaders across America do inspiring work to help their neighbors learn about the web, build digital literacy skills, get access to affordable computers and more. From time to time, we’ll invite some of these organizations to submit guest posts to our Google Fiber blog — starting today, with Dave Sullivan, the Executive Director of a nonprofit called Arts Tech, in Kansas City. Arts Tech has built a new program to bring together tech-savvy teens and seniors who want to learn about the web.

When I talk to seniors — folks who are 65 or older — about the Internet, I get a mix of reactions. Some of them regularly rely on email, video chats and the web to stay in touch with family and find information. But most seniors I meet have rarely, if ever, used computers or the Internet before.

So last year, when several local companies created the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund, the first-ever pool of money available here for nonprofits who want to close the digital divide, it gave me an idea. Of the people in Kansas City that don’t use the Internet at all, 44% are seniors — there’s a real need there. And on the other hand, 93% of teens use the Internet regularly — which presents a real opportunity. What if we could close a technological and generational gap at the same time?

I pitched the idea of a cross-generational digital literacy training program to the colleagues and students I work with at my nonprofit, Arts Tech. My colleagues were excited by the idea; after all, it fits right in with our mission to help urban teens develop technical skills. But I was really blown away by the excitement and enthusiasm our teens showed. Dozens of them said they’d want to participate in a program like this.

So we applied for, and received, a Digital Inclusion Fund grant — and today, 19 students from Hogan Academy are training to become intergenerational digital literacy experts. After students graduate from this program, they’ll be paired up with local seniors, to help them learn about the web in 1:1 or group training sessions.

This isn’t a walk in the park for these teens; we’ve pulled together a pretty rigorous 60-hour training program. Instead of sleeping in on Saturday mornings, students join us to learn about computer hardware, in-home networking, the Internet and computer software. They’re also learning how to work with seniors, and how to develop their very own digital literacy curriculum (like planning classes on how to create email addresses, and how to use social networks to connect with friends) that they’ll be able to teach by the end of the program.

My ultimate hope for this project is that its spirit of intergenerational learning spreads beyond our lab of laptops. Already, I’ve seen students, seniors and local partners pitch in to make this program happen. We all have a role to play, and working together I really believe that we can build a more digitally-inclusive community in which students, seniors and more are available to continually learn from each other.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Introducing Coffee-to-the-Home

We often hear stories from our customers about how Fiber has become a part of their daily lives — and one of the themes we’ve seen is that Fiber and coffee often go together. Whether folks are watching the morning news or reading email, it turns out that many of them often have a cup of coffee in-hand. This got us thinking — what if we could make it easier and faster for coffee-loving Fiber customers to enjoy both? We consulted java junkies, renowned roasters and cupping connoisseurs across the US and came up with our brand new, Coffee-To-The-Home (CTTH) program.

The key insight behind CTTH is pretty simple: as long as we’re already doing thousands of miles of construction to pull fiber lines throughout cities, why not invest in a coffee network, too? From now on, as we bring fiber throughout a city, we’ll also install pipelines that hook up homes to local baristas via a “hot beverage backbone” (HBB). The HBB will travel in parallel with our FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) network, to deliver CTTH. So, HBB + FTTH = CTTH. Easy.

In order to activate your Coffee-To-The-Home feature (or, in Provo, the “Hot Chocolate-To-The-Home feature), simply download or open your Google Fiber App on your mobile phone or tablet, and click on “Coffee” in the menu. Then, just tap on the beverage you’d like. Your order will be sent to a barista, who will make your drink and transmit it back to you along the HBB. All you have to do is grab your favorite mug, go to your home’s new “Fiber Spout,” turn the nozzle and enjoy your made-to-order drink of choice.

We’re piloting this service on a limited basis for customers now but hope to roll it out to all Google Fiber subscribers soon. For more information, or to sign-up for this new service,visit google.com/fiber/coffee.

Update: April Fools! Unfortunately, we won't be delivering coffee to Fiber customers' homes — for now. But who knows what we'll be able to deliver with a gig in the future?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Provo: new Fiber deadlines are coming up!

If you live here in Provo like me, you’ve known about the benefits of fiber-optic networks for a long time — back in 2000, our city had the vision to build a fiber network when only 3% of Americans had access to the web at home. Unfortunately, not everyone had the chance to get hooked up to the network back them. So now, we’re offering Provo residents the chance to get hooked up to Fiber for a one-time installation fee of $30.

If you want access to high-speed Internet, you can choose the Google Fiber Gigabit Internet plan, which is up to 100 times faster than basic broadband, for $70/month. But if you just want basic Internet — or an affordable fiber connection that will “future proof” your home so you can get faster speeds later — you can get our “Free Internet” plan which will give you basic speeds for just the $30 installation fee, and no monthly cost after that for at least 7 years.

There are a lot of people waiting for Google Fiber, and in order to get to everyone, we’re staggering our installations across 7 different areas in Provo, called “fiberhoods.” This is important: each fiberhood has a deadline by which they need to sign up for Fiber. If you want Fiber in your home, you need to sign up on our website before your fiberhood’s deadline. If you miss your deadline, we don’t currently have plans to reopen sign ups for Fiber in the future — so it’s important that you sign up now. Residents in Pioneer/West Provo need to sign up by this Thursday, March 27. And we just announced deadlines for the final four fiberhoods:

Grandview - Thursday, May 15
North Provo - Thursday, June 12
Southeast Provo - Thursday, July 17
Foothills - Thursday, August 21

Of course, if you have questions about any of this, we’d love to chat. Our Fiber Space, in the Shops at Riverwoods, and our Customer Service Center, at 250 W. Center Street, are set up with demos and are fully staffed with Fiber team members who can help you sign up, or answer your questions. If you can’t visit us in person you can give us a call or chat with us online, 24/7.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

More KC-area residents can sign up for Fiber this afternoon

We’ve already pulled nearly 6,000 miles of our fiber-optic cables throughout Kansas City— that’s about the distance across the Pacific Ocean from the U.S. to China—and now we’re ready to lay down even more! Residents in south Kansas City, Kansas City, north, Grandview, Raytown and Gladstone can start signing up this afternoon to bring Google Fiber to their communities.

In order to make sure you and your neighbors get Fiber, there are only two things you need to do. First, go to our website and sign up. You’ll pay a $10 registration fee, and you can choose one of our three Fiber plans:

Then, it’s time to encourage your neighbors to sign up for Fiber, too! We’ve clustered homes across the KC area into small groupings called ”fiberhoods” (you can see which fiberhood you’re in on our website). Your fiberhood has a goal — a certain number of homes that need to sign up for Google Fiber. You’ll be able to see a real-time count on our website that shows you what your goal is, and how many more people in your fiberhood need to sign-up. If you and your neighbors meet this goal, we’ll aim to bring you Google Fiber by the end of this year. If you don’t meet this goal, we can’t commit to bringing Fiber to your area — which is why if you want super-fast Internet, you should help rally your neighbors to sign-up.

There are lots of ways to spread the word. You can tell your neighbors about Fiber yourself, bring them to one of our events where we can answer any of their questions, or bring them by the Fiber Space in Westport (and now temporarily in Ward Parkway Mall, Santa Fe Center and Red Bridge Shopping Center) to see what Google Fiber is like.

One important note: your fiberhood has a deadline by which you need to reach your signup goal. The deadlines are coming up over the next few weeks, so it’s important to sign up as soon as you can.
• Thursday, April 10 — deadline for residents in 73 fiberhoods in south KCMO, Grandview & Raytown
• Thursday, May 15 — deadline for residents in 33 fiberhoods in KCMO northwest
• Monday, June 19 — deadline for residents in 52 fiberhoods in KCMO northeast and Gladstone

We plan to start hooking up homes in these fiberhoods a few weeks after their deadlines, and expect to have all qualified fiberhoods connected by the end of this year. We are also extending this opportunity to the 21 fiberhoods in central KCMO and KCK that didn’t qualify for Google Fiber in 2012; these fiberhoods will have until June 19 to tell us they want Fiber.

You can help us get to your fiberhood soon, by signing up this afternoon and telling your neighbors to sign-up, too.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Our fiber-ready checklist

This week, our Fiber team traveled to meet with mayors and city officials from each of the 34 cities where we’re exploring the possibility of building Google Fiber. Building a fiber network is a big job, and it requires a lot of advance planning and collaboration — so over the next few months, these cities will be working with us to complete a checklist that will help them become more “fiber-ready.”

You can have a look at the checklist here. We hope any city across America will find these recommendations helpful, whether they’re looking to build and run their own fiber network or attract an existing provider to do it. There’s nothing special or exclusive here for Google Fiber; rather, it’s a compilation of best practices from The Fiber to the Home Council, Gig U, the US Conference of Mayors and other industry experts, and it’s designed to be a practical, actionable roadmap that makes building new networks easier, faster and less disruptive.

This is just the beginning of many conversations with these 34 cities — and it’s already clear that taking the time to get to know each other and talk about these topics now will help them feel prepared for a big construction project, and will help us bring Fiber to more people faster. We’ll continue to share what we learn on this blog, for all of the other cities across America who are interested in what it takes to get ready for a gig.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Exploring new cities for Google Fiber

Over the last few years, gigabit Internet has moved from idea to reality, with dozens of communities (PDF) working hard to build networks with speeds 100 times faster than what most of us live with today. People are hungrier than ever for faster Internet, and as a result, cities across America are making speed a priority. Hundreds of mayors from across the U.S. have stated (PDF) that abundant high-speed Internet access is essential for sparking innovation, driving economic growth and improving education. Portland, Nashville (PDF) and dozens of others have made high-speed broadband a pillar of their economic development plans. And Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, declared in June that every school should have access to gigabit speeds by 2020.

We've long believed that the Internet’s next chapter will be built on gigabit speeds, so it’s fantastic to see this momentum. And now that we’ve learned a lot from our Google Fiber projects in Kansas City, Austin and Provo, we want to help build more ultra-fast networks. So we’ve invited cities in nine metro areas around the U.S.—34 cities altogether—to work with us to explore what it would take to bring them Google Fiber.


We aim to provide updates by the end of the year about which cities will be getting Google Fiber. Between now and then, we’ll work closely with each city’s leaders on a joint planning process that will not only map out a Google Fiber network in detail, but also assess what unique local challenges we might face. These are such big jobs that advance planning goes a long way toward helping us stick to schedules and minimize disruption for residents.

We’re going to work on a detailed study of local factors that could affect construction, like topography (e.g., hills, flood zones), housing density and the condition of local infrastructure. Meanwhile, cities will complete a checklist of items that will help them get ready for a project of this scale and speed. For example, they’ll provide us with maps of existing conduit, water, gas and electricity lines so that we can plan where to place fiber. They’ll also help us find ways to access existing infrastructure—like utility poles—so we don’t unnecessarily dig up streets or have to put up a new pole next to an existing one.

While we do want to bring Fiber to every one of these cities, it might not work out for everyone. But cities who go through this process with us will be more prepared for us or any provider who wants to build a fiber network. In fact, we want to give everyone a boost in their thinking about how to bring fiber to their communities; we plan to share what we learn in these 34 cities, and in the meantime you can check out some tips in a recent guest post on the Google Fiber blog by industry expert Joanne Hovis. Stay tuned for updates, and we hope this news inspires more communities across America to take steps to get to a gig.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How communities can facilitate fiber construction

Ed. Note: Local governments from across America often ask us about what they can do to prepare their communities for fiber networks. We’ve learned a lot from our work with KC, Austin and Provo — but we were also curious about what a longtime industry expert might recommend. That’s why we turned to Joanne Hovis, a communications policy expert and advocate for the interests of local communities, the President of CTC Technology & Energy and the immediate past president of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA). We asked Joanne to pull together her recommendations on how local communities can become more “fiber-ready.” She recently published this advice (with financial support from us) for local leaders in a paper called Gigabit Communities, and she’s joining us as a guest blogger to talk about her suggestions.

In 2009, city leaders and residents in Chattanooga made a bold decision — they built a new local fiber-optic network so that they could have widespread access to faster broadband. Years later, the decision has paid off; according to the New York Times, the network has helped to create jobs and spur economic growth. This success story is just part of the recent wave of interest in next generation fiber-optic networks that seems to be sweeping the country as local governments are increasingly looking for ways to bring faster broadband and more competition to their communities. Building a network like Chattanooga’s might not be possible everywhere. But there is an alternate option — as an advisor to many communities, I’ve seen that that there are certain steps that cities and counties can take that could help attract fiber companies to build private local networks.

Institute “dig once” policies. When private companies build fiber networks, one of the biggest costs is stringing physical fiber lines throughout an entire community, which requires either digging up streets (to put fiber underground) or installing new utility poles (to string fiber in the air). If localities want to attract fiber providers, they can help to make this future construction much easier by instituting what’s called a “dig once” policy. Every time the city does road maintenance or needs to dig up streets to reach water or sewer pipes, they can install fiber conduit while they’re already down there. Then, they can make that conduit available for providers to lease and pull their fiber through. Not only is this an attractive option to providers who save the time and expense of digging, but it has the added benefit of reducing future disruption for local citizens (who probably don’t want to deal with a future road closure if it can be avoided).

Alternatively, the locality can install large bundles of fiber and make that available to companies or non-profits who want to build state-of-the-art broadband. In our experience, the strategy of building conduit or fiber whenever possible is the single-most powerful, cost-effective step a locality can take to enable new network development.

Compile current info on local infrastructure. Another thing cities and counties can do is to compile a lot of the local infrastructure information they already have — like where existing utilities are — and make that data accessible to potential network providers. Making this information available will help potential partners kick-start their network planning without having to survey and record the data themselves. In turn, local governments will be able to start substantive conversations with these providers much faster.

Streamline local government processes. Finally, cities and counties can take a look at some of their existing government processes and think about how to streamline and standardize them. For example, building a fiber network can require a lot of construction permits. By establishing a standard permitting process and publishing it for potential providers to see, localities can clearly indicate to network providers that they’re ready for a major infrastructure project. These providers can play a role, too — if they decide to build fiber in an area, they can share their building plans with localities ahead of time, and determine a rolling timeline of permit requests, to save localities from being inundated with thousands of permits at once.

These are just a few recommendations — but after working in this industry for almost two decades, we have many more tips for helping cities get ready for the fiber-optic networks that are the future. We also have case studies and engineering analysis, all compiled into a report, which can be found on www.Gigabit-Communities.com. We truly believe that fiber networks are essential to our communities’ future economic and community development, and we hope our experiences can help localities as they work toward that fiber future.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Year, New Internet Choice for Provo Residents

Starting today, Provo residents who live along the former iProvo network can start signing up for Google Fiber. You’ll be able to choose from three different options for your Fiber service:

  • The Gigabit Internet plan will give you an Internet connection that’s up to 100 times faster than basic broadband for $70/month.
  • The Gigabit Internet + TV plan will give you access to hundreds of TV channels, a storage box that can record up to 8 shows at once and hold up to 500 hours of HD content, plus an ultrafast Internet connection, for $120/month.
  • The Free Internet plan will give you basic broadband speeds (up to 5Mbps download, 1 Mbps upload) for a one-time, $30 installation fee, then no monthly costs for at least 7 years.
  • After you choose your plan, we’ll need to bring a brand new fiber-optic cable directly into your home. We can’t install fiber to everyone in Provo all at once, so we’re going to work in waves, starting with the North Park area next month and finishing in the Foothills area hopefully by the end of this year.

    When you go to our website, enter your address and find out which of the following “fiberhoods” your home is in. Then, sign up for Fiber before your area’s deadline. We don't have current plans to re-open fiberhood sign ups, so make sure you don't miss your deadline if you want Fiber. If you’re in one of our first three fiberhoods, make sure you put your area’s deadline on your calendar:

    North Park - Thursday, February 20
    Downtown Provo - Thursday, March 6
    Pioneer/West Provo - Thursday, March 27
    Grandview - Spring 2014
    North Provo - Summer 2014
    Southeast Provo - Summer 2014
    Foothills - Summer 2014

    If you’re in the Grandview, North Provo, Southeast Provo or the Foothills fiberhoods, we’re planning to bring Fiber to your area later this spring and summer and we’ll post your deadlines on this blog as we get closer to them. If you're in Provo, you can also sign up to get email updates — plus a Google Fiber mug.

    For those of you who are still customers of Veracity Networks and missed your early-access opportunity to get Fiber, you can go to our website now and sign up, too. Your deadline to choose your Google Fiber plan is February 28.

    Have questions? You can always call us up or get in touch with us online — but starting this Friday (Jan. 24th), you can also come see us in-person at our brand-new Fiber Space in the Shops at Riverwoods. The Fiber Space has several demo stations set up where you’ll be able to see just how fast Google Fiber is in-person, plus play around with our TV service and test out the different devices that will come with Fiber. We’d love to answer any of your questions or help you sign-up for Google Fiber!

    Friday, December 13, 2013

    Fast, free Internet for 100 Austin community organizations

    There are hundreds of community organizations here in Austin who work to make our city better every day. For these groups, having more resources means that they can help more people. For example, more canned food means a food bank can feed more families, and more computers means that a career development center can help more people build resumes and search for jobs.

    Reliable, affordable access can be a valuable resource too; that’s why Google Fiber is donating ten years of free high-speed Gigabit Internet (with speeds up to 100x faster than the average American connection) to 100 community organizations throughout Austin. Last night, the City Council selected which groups would get access to the service. The full list of selected “Community Connections” sites is available on the City Council’s website.

    One important thing to note is that in order for a Community Connection to get Fiber, its surrounding area, or “fiberhood,” needs to qualify for service first. So when you sign up for Google Fiber next year, you’re also helping these local community organizations get one step closer to getting Fiber, too.

    This whole process will take awhile — it will probably be over a year before we can even start making these Community Connections. But until then, we’re excited to get to know these organizations and hear about their plans for how they want to use their Fiber connection.

    Wednesday, November 20, 2013

    Just for Austin: How you’ll be able to sign up for Google Fiber

    When I first walked into the Google Fiber office, I was surprised by what I found: walls papered with maps of Austin, construction plans for every single neighborhood and a big team of engineers who knew the Austin area better than I. It struck me how much work it takes to build a city-wide network, and also how little my fellow Austinites and I really knew about Google Fiber. So, going forward I’ll share what I can with you, whenever I can, starting today with an explanation of how you’ll actually be able to sign up for service next year.

    Getting Google Fiber will be a little different than what you might be used to. Google won’t choose which areas get Fiber — you and your neighbors will.

    Over the next several months, we’ll start installing thousands of miles of fiber-optic cables to boxes called telecom cabinets throughout the entire city. One of these cabinets can serve you and a few hundred of your neighbors with Fiber — we call this grouping your “fiberhood.”

    That’s where you come in. For us to bring Google Fiber to you, we need to know you want us! Each fiberhood will have a sign-up goal. Once you and your neighbors reach your goal, we’ll bring fiber the last mile (or so) from the cabinet to your homes within a few weeks.

    This process will be transparent — you and your neighbors are in control. Next year, you’ll be able to go online and check a real-time map to see how close your fiberhood is to your goal, and see how other fiberhoods are doing. Plus, you’ll be able to see which local community organizations like libraries, schools and nonprofits (the City is selecting 100) will be getting Google Fiber service for free — as long as the fiberhood they’re in meets its goal.

    One important thing you should know: you’ll only have a short window of time to sign up for service — probably a few weeks. This is because we focus our energy on a handful of fiberhoods at once, doing an all-out installation and construction blitz. We do this so we can provide you with better, faster service; we won’t make you wait around for a crew that’s stuck in traffic across town. After we’re done in one fiberhood, we’ll move on to the next. Please make sure you don’t miss your opportunity to sign up, because we don’t know when we’ll be able to come back!

    Unfortunately, the missing detail that I don’t have yet is the date when you’ll be able to sign-up. We’ll let you know when we know — but in the meantime, I will try to write updates for you as I have them. Thanks for your patience, and know that we’re working hard to get Fiber to you as soon as we can!