Google is inviting San Jose and 33 other cities around the country to begin talks on joining the gigabit-speed home Internet service known as Google Fiber, in a move that promises lightning-fast downloads to millions of consumers while transforming a former sideline into a substantial business for the giant tech company.
Google wants to discuss building and operating optical fiber networks, starting as early as next year, in Phoenix; Atlanta; Nashville; Salt Lake City; San Antonio, Texas; Charlotte, N.C. and Portland, Ore., along with neighboring towns in those areas. Also in Silicon Valley, the company is also approaching Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.
While some cities ultimately may not qualify or could decide not to participate, Google Fiber general manager Kevin Lo said in an interview that the company “absolutely” wants to add all 34 if possible.
“The future of the Internet will be built on gigabit speeds,” said Lo, adding that high-speed connections to the home are essential for Internet developers and companies like Google to deliver new and better online services. “We’re going to do our part to help move the web forward.”
The effort could also create a new profit center for Google, according to some analysts, although others question the wisdom of competing with giant phone and cable companies in a sector that’s far different from its core business. Google makes most of its money by selling online advertising.
Google’s expansion comes at a time when cable companies provide Internet service to the largest chunk of U.S. consumers — and as the two largest operators, Comcast and Time Warner, are preparing to merge. If Google expands to all 34 cities, it would serve about 10 percent of U.S. consumers, said Susan Crawford, a visiting law professor at Harvard who studies telecommunications and Internet access.
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