In the dry, northern district of downtown Omaha, scores of technology entrepreneurs and creatives are hunched in front of their computers in what was once an abandoned furniture factory. They come to the Mastercraft building for space nearly the size of three football ﬁelds. Soon, they’ll come for the blistering internet speed, too.
On May 6, Omaha became the latest rural US city to get an internet speed of one gigabit per second, or 100 times faster than the average. Downloading a movie takes seconds. A user said it makes the internet feel “invisible”. Cable company CenturyLink is pro-viding the coveted 1Gbps access for $80 a month with other bundled services, and city officials hope it will cover the Mastercraft building next.
This was all a pleasant surprise for Omaha. Only a handful of US neighbourhoods can get gigabit speeds outside of the three cities where Google is offering its own gigabit network, called Fiber. Omaha was one of 1,100 cities that applied (and failed) to be a Google Fiber city. Then a few months ago, CenturyLink revealed it had almost ﬁnished building its ﬁrst-ever gigabit ﬁbre network in Omaha. “They knew we were interested in Google Fiber,” says David Brown, CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.
CenturyLink says it started planning the network before the hype surrounding Google Fiber. “But they validated our thinking,” said GM Danny Pate.
Telcos and netizens are buzzing over Google’s long-term plans for Fiber. So far, Google has committed to building only in Kansas City, Missouri, Provo, Utah and Austin, Texas, but it may not have to go nationwide to kickstart the rest of the industry. With help from the hundredth-monkey effect, Google may need to reach only an inﬂection point in building out Fiber before enough telcos and federal agencies jump on the bandwagon, too.
Hours after Google announced on April 9 that it was bringing 1Gbps to Austin, AT&T said it was offering its ﬁrst gigabit network there, too. AT&T hesitates to credit Google for it. “Policymakers have made rules for Google that eliminate unnecessary regulation and lower the cost,” said AT&T spokesman Larry Solomon. He adds that AT&T would roll out 1Gbps ﬁbre to any community offering the right incentives.
Google Fiber also indirectly led to Vermont Telephone Co securing $116 million in federal loans and grants to connect 17,500 homes to a new gigabit network. The feds had denied VTel the funding four years ago, but when Google announced its plans for Fiber in 2010, VTel tried again, referencing Google. The money came through. “Google’s publicity gave our effort more credibility,” says VTel’s CEO, Michel Guite.
Google doesn’t mind. “...we ultimately think that competition and choice is better for our users. It’s one of the reasons we started building ﬁbre,” said a spokeswoman. Another reason: Faster web surﬁng means more web surﬁng and more eyeballs on Google’s ads.