Buzz City Banter: What's the big deal about Google Fiber?

Google Fiber is officially coming to Charlotte! There has been significant buzz around the Queen City following the big announcement naming Charlotte and Raleigh as two of the cities that will have the sumptuous privilege of participating in this technological adventure.

It’s been a few weeks since the announcement and the initial excitement has begun to subside with the prospect of waiting almost 2 years before the service is up and running. So, this feels like a good time to sit back and examine why this Google Fiber endeavor is such a big deal (other than the hopeful catalyst forcing Time Warner/Comcast/AT&T into insolvency or at the very least into companies that provide semi-decent service).

            In short, Google Fiber is an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that will compete with Time Warner Cable, AT&T, and Comcast. The reason Google Fiber has received so much publicity is because it provides download speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second (GbPS). To put this in perspective, the average download speed for residents of North Carolina ranges from 3-7 Megabits per second (MbPS). 1 Gigabit (Gb) equals 1,000 Megabits (Mb). As of right now, the highest download speed generally available in North Carolina is 50 MbPS. Even if you are paying the $70 per month for these speeds, Google Fiber will provide you with speeds 20 times faster . . . and at the same price (based on current pricing in Kansas City). Not only will Google Fiber provide incredibly fast download speeds at reasonable costs, but it will offer free broadband internet at speeds up to 5 MbPS after a $300 “construction fee” (based on Kansas City pricing and speeds). This same model is expected to be adopted in all future cities as well. So it is easy to see why there is so much hype surrounding this announcement.

Okay, but where’s the catch? Well, there are a few caveats regarding Google Fiber’s service that tend to get lost in the details. First off, not everyone in Charlotte will have access to Google Fiber (at least not at the initial roll out). Currently, there is not a map of service areas provided, but here is a map depicting a decent estimation. Secondly, ISPs offer service “up to” a certain speed, which means that this is the best-case scenario for download speeds. There are a multitude of factors that can impact your personal download speeds. While 1,000 MbPS is an amazing feat, you will need to have the hardware to achieve these speeds. Most computers these days should be able to handle 1,000 MbPS download speeds. With that being said, most homes today use a wireless/Wi-Fi connection, which will limit your download speeds to anywhere from 600 MbPS down to 54 MbPS depending on your hardware. Now, 54 MbPS is still extremely fast and more than most people will need for basic internet browsing such as social media, surfing the web, and streaming movies. But be forewarned that you may need to do some hardware upgrading in order to truly take advantage of Google Fiber’s potential. However, given the speed of technological evolution, by the time Google Fiber service is finally available (expected in 2017) hopefully these concerns will have been remedied.

Verdict: Despite the few limitations, Google Fiber is going to be a great addition to our community and should provide a level of service and support that our current ISPs are profusely lacking. We should also see an increase in start-up business development similar to those seen in Kansas City, but that is a discussion for another time. So revel in the knowledge that our current ISPs are finally about to get some real competition and let’s all hope that Google delivers the quality product that we’ve come to expect from their brand.


Joshua W. Goodman, Family Law Attorney at Fisher Law Group PLLC

Growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina, I have always had an interest in our community and I hope that by highlighting some of the exciting events and important issues you will find the same enthusiasm and impetus to get involved.