After more than two years in the works, Google announced details of its 1 Gigabit per second Internet fiber-to-the-home service -- as well as a companion IPTV service with 161 channels and multiscreen access -- to be available in Kansas City, Kan., and central Kansas City, Mo.
Google will charge $70 per month for standalone Internet service, and $120 per month for TV plus 1-Gig service with a two-year contract. Users also have the option to get 5 Mbps downstream Internet access for no monthly charge for at least seven years, if they pay a one-time $300 "construction fee" or pay $25 per month for 12 months.
However, a listing of the service's initial channel lineup excludes a number of top cable networks, including HBO, Disney Channel, ESPN, Fox News Channel, TNT, TBS and AMC.
The Google Fiber service isn't currently available, and the company will determine where it will initially hook up residents in the next several months based on online registrations. Google said about 10% of a neighborhood's households will need to sign up for service to be part of the first wave of customers.
"It's Internet 100 times faster than most Americans have today," Google vice president of access Milo Medin said at the company's launch event Thursday in Kansas City, Mo. "I don't know about you, but I've never heard someone say they think their Internet connection is too fast."
The Internet service, which provides 1 Gbps both downstream and upstream, includes "no caps, no overage charges," said Medin, who in the last decade led the cable industry's @Home broadband project. The service includes 1 Terabyte of Google storage for photos and other media.
The Google Fiber TV service includes a 2-Terabyte DVR, which is enough storage for up to 500 hours of HD programming, with the ability to record up to eight shows at once. Subscribers will have access to "tens of thousands" of VOD titles. The TV service also will be available on Android and iOS devices, and will include a voice-enabled search function.
"It's not just Internet TV -- but real TV that you used to be able to get only from your cable or satellite provider," Medin said. "You don't have to settle for old-style television any more."
Time Warner Cable, the dominant cable operator in the Kansas City area, offers a top speed of 50 Mbps downstream. In response to the Google Fiber announcement, TWC spokesman Justin Venech said, "Kansas City has been a highly competitive market for a long time and we take all competitors seriously. We have a robust and adaptable network, advanced products and services available today, and experienced local employees delivering local service. We are confident in our ability to compete."
The full list of Google Fiber TV channels is available here. Google is throwing in a free Android tablet, its recently announced Nexus 7, for TV subscribers, which functions as a remote control for the TV service.
The Google Fiber TV service also will include content supplied from local organizations and groups in Kansas City, according to the company.
Google's self-described fiber-to-the-home "experiment" is designed to push policymakers to putting policies in place to encourage faster broadband speeds.
The average Internet speeds in the U.S. are 5.8 Megabits per second down and 1.2 Mbps up, Medin said: "This is incredibly slow compared to the rest of the developed world."
Google's 1-Gig Internet service includes a home router with four Gigabit Ethernet ports. The TV set-tops include built-in access to Netflix and YouTube.
In February 2010, the company kicked off the "Think Big With a Gig" contest, offering to build a 1 Gbps fiber-to-the-home network somewhere in the U.S.. The offer elicited more than 1,100 applications from cities and communities across the country. Google's stated goal: to create a test bed for showcasing next-generation Internet applications and push for government policies to facilitate super-fast broadband rollouts.
Availability of the service in Kansas City, Kan., and central Kansas City, Mo., will vary. Google said consumers must preregister by Sept. 9 and pay a $10 fee to be eligible for service; the company will build out FTTH intially in neighborhoods where "there is the most interest."
Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski said the Google Fiber project, the Gig.U high-speed broadband initiative backed by 29 research universities and others like it will help the U.S. remain "globally competitive."
"Abundance in broadband speeds and capacity -- moving from megabits to gigabits -- will unleash breakthrough innovations in healthcare, education, business services and more," Genachowski said. "As outlined in the National Broadband Plan, it's vital both that we connect every corner in America to broadband and that we spur next-generation innovation through next-generation broadband networks."
Last year Google said it would start the signup process for customers in Kansas City, Kan., in the fourth quarter of 2011. The company said it delayed the process until the fiber buildout was farther along. In April the company said it had strung more than 100 miles of fiber in the region, having contracted with Braselton, Ga.-based Atlantic Engineering Group (AEG) for the initial fiber deployment.
Google has pledged to provide free 1-Gbps access to more than 200 government buildings in the area, including schools and libraries.
Google announced the hiring of Medin in December 2010. He was one of the founders of the cable industry's @Home venture, formed in 1996 with John Malone's Tele-Communications Inc., Comcast, Cox Communications and William Randolph Hearst III. The company, which acquired Web portal Excite, filed for bankruptcy in September 2001. Its high-speed-fiber network was subsequently sold to AT&T.
Google provides more information on the fiber-to-the-home service at http://fiber.google.com. Its "Fiber Space" retail location, which provides hands-on demos of the services for consumers, is located at 1814 Westport Road in Kansas City, Mo.
-- Mike Reynolds contributed to this article.