RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Customers who live in 18 metro areas including the Triangle and Charlotte that have access to Google Fiber service now can only choose the highest speed offering – one gigabit – not slower 100 megabit speeds.

In a blog post, Google Fiber says it is “going all in on gig,” thus dropping the slower offering to new customers.

There’s more. Current 100 mbps customers will pay an extra $5 a month for an increase to 500 mbps service in Feburary, according to other reports. And Google’s TV package is additional.

But even if you want Google Fiber availability is still limited to a few neighborhoods around the Triangle and the Queen City. (Check this link to see if you can get service.)

Rick Smith, WRAL TechWire’s editor and a cofounder and author of The Skinny blog.

And unlike at launch seven years ago, Google Fiber faces an increasingly competitive environment with AT&T, CenturyLink, Ting and others getting into the gig market.

Comparing 100 megabits to gigabit is like matching a Tesla against a Ford Pinto. But 100 mbps is still the range for most non-fiber offerings.

Do you really need gig? One reviewer likens 100 mbps to a one-lane highway and gig to a 10 lane. BUT … those “off ramps” may slow you down to speeds far below gig.

Yet the appeal of instant access remains.

“We are excited to turn our attention back to our gig service, still offered for $70/month — the exact same price it cost back in 2012 when we first launched,” the Google Fiber blog reads.

“Backed by the power of a gig, our customers are able to fully enjoy the endless opportunities the Internet presents.”

The hype vs. reality

Google’s own commitment to its fiber service has wavered, however, witl a hyped national rollout being scaled back to 18 current cities.

Remeber the Google Fiber rage that swept the country with politicians offering to name their babies after Google Fiber in order to land one of the first networks to be built?

Since then, Google has augmented fiber with explorations of wireless delivery. And there are various business services pledging:

  • “Hello faster speeds, farewell waiting
  • “wifi_tethering
  • “Fight over the last donut, not bandwidth
  • “HD video conferencing.
  • “Instant access to the cloud”

Google Fiber still sees the connected home through the Internet of Things as a big driver for the need to use gigabit.

“Of course, we know that much of that growth is coming from the number of connected devices in your home, doubling every year, and so many more activities, like gaming and sharing and watching videos online,” Google Fiber says. “Streaming, or ‘over the top’ TV viewing, requires bandwidth. A lot of it.”

No denying that. Streaming over standard cable offerings is a mixed bag. (Did your stream hold up through 3 and a half hours of “The Irshman”?)

But the bottom lines remain:

  • Can you get Google Fiber?
  • Is there another choice where you live?
  • If you get it, will you really be able to use it?