The Triangle area is on the list of metropolitan areas where Internet giant Google wants to deploy its “Google Fiber” broadband network for TV, Internet and other services.

Google listed the Triangle among nine cities where it wishes to deploy a fiber-optic based network that promises ultra-fast 1-gigabit speeds capable of delivering high-definition video services. A gigabit in speed would be about 100 times faster than a standard cable Internet connection, according to Google. Citing a 2013 industry study, Google says ”the average American only experiences speeds of 9.8 [megabits per second], while Google Fiber offers up to 1,000 Mb/sec download and upload.”

However, a final decision about deployment is contingent upon negotiations with various local government agencies.

Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Morrisville and Raleigh were cited by Google in the Triangle selection. 

Charlotte also is on the Google Fiber list. 

“[W]e’ve invited cities in 9 metro areas around the U.S.—34 cities altogether—to work with us to explore what it would take to bring them Google Fiber,” Milo Medin, vice president of Google Access Services, explained.

“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.” (In a blog post, Google spells out specifically what it is looking for,)

The mayors of Raleigh and Durham welcomed the news.

“The City of Raleigh has been working on expanding broadband options for our community for some time,” Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said. “Today’s announcement provides another opportunity for the City to explore options to provide abundant, high-speed broadband access that will make our community stronger and help strengthen the foundations for future economic development in our city.”

Added Durham Mayor William Bell: “I am very excited about the possibility of Google fiber coming to Durham. While Durham is a university town, and home to much of the Research Triangle Park, this Google product would be geared toward residents, providing them better and faster access to the information highway, for personal as well as business development purposes. It also would provide jobs during the construction period.”

Harvey Schmitt, CEO of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, expects businesses and leaders to rally to the cause of securing a Google network.

“Great news that we are being considered,” Schmitt said. “It is most exciting given Google’s target markets are a major league of innovative communities and regions. I am confident that many businesses and their employees will be excited to share their interest in this service.”

Increased competition

If Google Fiber decides to deploy to Triangle markets, consumers will have several choices for broadband and online TV choices, including U-verse from AT&T and Time Warner Cable.

Google Fiber is already available in Kansas City, Mo. It is being deployed in Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah.

Other metro areas on the list include: Atlanta, Nashville, Tenn.; San Antonio, Texas; Phoenix, Ariz.; Salt Lake City, Utah; San Jose, Calif.; and Portland, Ore.

The service initially targets consumers, but Google has said in other markets that it is considering business services.

“From the beginning, Google Fiber was meant to help make the web faster for individuals and families. We’d noticed frustration from users about their home Internet speeds — nobody likes to put their lives on hold as videos buffer, photo albums upload or movies download,” the Google Fiber team wrote in a blog published last fall. “We chose to bring a Fiber to homes first, to help make the web there faster, and we’ll have a small business product in the future.”

The company has also stated an intention to connect some public institutions such as libraries at no charge. For example, in December Google said it would donate 10 years of access to 100 community organizations. 

A host of groups petitioned Google to pick the Triangle and other sites in North Carolina in 2010, when Google announced plans for its first fiber network. Kansas City ended up being selected.

Service offers include:

  • Gigabit Internet, which it says is “up to 100 times faster than basic broadband. The charge is $70 per month.
  • The Gigabit Internet + TV, which includes access to “hundreds of TV channels” plus a DVR that can hold up to 500 hours of high-definition content and Internet service for $120 per month
  • A “Free Internet” offering that includes lower speeds (up to 5 megabits per second) for a $30 installation fee. There is no service fee for “at least seven years.”

(A sample of Google Fiber pricing and services can be found online.)

North Carolina has own “Next Generation Network” plan

Triangle universities and municipalities have over the past two years been exploring the deployment of a gigabit-capable network that would also include parts of the Triad under a project known as “North Carolina Next Generation Network.” The group welcomed the Google news but said it would proceed with its own plans.

The project envisions communities in the Triangle and the Triad along with area research universities working with the private sector to bring fiber-optic connectivity to homes and businesses. Eight vendors responded to a “request for proposal” in April 2013. The names of the firms that responded are being kept confidential, except for Time Warner Cable, which announced that it had submitted a proposal. Initial deployment had been expected to start in 2014, but that target was pushed back last fall.

The City of Wilson also offers its own fiber-optic based service.

What’s a gigabit?

Here’s Google’s definition of gigabit:

“One gigabit per second (Gbps) is a 1000 megabits per second (Mbps) connection. A gigabit is 100 times faster than the Internet connection that most Americans have today, allowing you to get what you want instantaneously. You no longer have to wait on things buffering; it’ll be all ready to go when you are. So whether you are video chatting, uploading family videos, or playing your favorite online games, all you need to do is click and you’re there.”