Google Sets K.C. Fiber Rollout, Inks Deal for Turner Nets


Google signed a deal with Turner Broadcasting System to add CNN, TBS, TNT and nine other networks to its fiber-based IPTV service -- but most residents will have to wait at least a year before they can tune in or connect to the promised blistering-fast 1 Gbps broadband service.

The company announced Thursday that it will hook up 180 of the 202 neighborhoods targeted in its initial fiber-to-the-home buildout in Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan.

However, Google won’t begin construction in 53% of those until next fall at the earliest, with another 28% slated for summer 2013.

Google’s staggered schedule reflects the labor-intensive process of building a physical network and connecting residences literally one at a time.

Moreover, the company warned that it may encounter delays. “It’s important to note that our construction schedule isn’t set in stone -- many factors, such as a harsh winter, may affect timing,” Google Access general manager Kevin Lo wrote in a blog post.

The first “fiberhood” to receive Google Fiber will be Hanover Heights in Kansas City, Kan., which preregistered the highest percentage of households on the Kansas side of the line. Google plans to install fiber for its first customer in Hanover Heights “within the next few weeks,” Lo said.

To boost the appeal of Google Fiber, the Internet giant is offering a TV component of the service.

This week, Google announced it will add several major cable networks: It will carry Turner’s Boomerang, Cartoon Network, CNN, CNN en Español, CNN International, HLN, hTV, Infinito, TBS, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), TNT and truTV.

Google also said it will offer MLB Network's Strike Zone as part of an add-on package.

Earlier this week Google announced a pact with Disney/ESPN Media Networks for 15 networks, including ESPN, Disney Channel and ABC Family, as well as Ovation, TBN and Discovery Communications' Velocity.

The Google Fiber project to deliver 1 Gigabit per second broadband without any usage limits is aimed at pushing incumbent cable operators and telcos to crank up their own Internet offerings.

But the heavy lifting and high cost involved have led industry observers to believe Google Fiber is a limited, one-off experiment.

Time Warner Cable, the incumbent MSO in the Kansas City area, has fewer than 100,000 Internet and 100,000 video subscribers that overlap with Google’s footprint, according to chief financial officer Irene Esteves.

"We're talking about less than 1% of our subs [nationwide that are] at risk," she said, speaking at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment conference on Sept. 12.

Esteves added that she doesn’t expect Google Fiber to expand beyond the initial K.C. market, estimating it would cost upward of $200 billion to deploy fiber-to-the-home nationwide.

Google declined to disclose how many people preregistered for the fiber service. Its franchise agreements in the Kansas City area cover about 1 million people.

The Google Fiber service is $70 per month for broadband only with a one-year contract and $120 per month as part of a broadband/TV bundle with a two-year contract.