Dec 3, 2015 - Things to Do

The idiot’s guide to Google Fiber

google fiber

google fiber

To even have solid enough footing to feel like I could write about this well, I googled, among other things, “google fiber,” “what is google fiber,” and “what is google fiber explanation.” I read articles on websites like Digital Trends, Geek, and, even though every adult warned me against it, Wikipedia.

All I knew about it is that the shirts are really cool, and that I wish I had one.

What is it?

Google Fiber is basically Google’s way of proving that it’s one step closer to taking over the world. It’s an Internet and television service created and provided by Google that aims to leave what you already have in the dust. And it’s coming to Charlotte sometime in the near future.

On the Internet front, it eliminates the time that comes with waiting for buffering, uploading and downloading so that you have more time to do whatever you’re there to do. No judgment.

When it comes to TV, Google’s making it possible to do things on your TV that the smart TV sitting in your living room can only dream of. Think DVRing up to 8 ridiculously high definition shows at a time – and your remote is on your phone.

Behind us are the days of losing the remote between the cushions, but that’s nowhere near as important as no longer having to wait more than a minute for a download or buffering to finish. So, let’s break it down.

Why do I need it?

Until today, I had no idea how to tell how fast or slow my internet was. It just was, so long as things were loading and I was able to continue my normal routine of Instagram, Facebook and Narratively. So I tried to find out by using services like and found that on my Surface Pro 3, I’m currently running Pings between 19 and 25 ms, download speeds between 46 and 47 Mbps, and upload speeds between 2 and 7 Mbps.

Wait. What?

ping is how long it takes a signal to make the trip from your computer to a server and back again. In other words, it’s the speed of the reaction to your request. It’s measured in milliseconds, or ms.

Mbps is basically how many millions of bits your bandwith can process per second. Essentially, it’s the total information flow over a span of time.

Is this fast or slow or average? I was impressed with it at first, and then thought it was just average. I was wrong.

“The U.S. ranks 20th in the world for Internet speeds, with most Americans accessing a connection that’s a fraction of what’s available in the fastest countries in the world,” a Google spokesperson shared with me. “Google Fiber aims to change that.”

I went on to learn that when I connect to the Internet, I’m connecting to a local infrastructure of copper cables. When we connect via Google Fiber, we’ll be connecting to a complex system of fiber-optic cables.

“This technology has been around for over 100 years, and it wasn’t built for what we’re trying to use it for today,” the source said. “[The] fiber-optic cables are made of glass, and use lasers to transmit information at rates close to the speed of light.”

In other words, Google Fiber laps these speeds over and over again. We’re talking one gigabit here, people.

What. What?

1,000 Mbps are so many megabits per second that they turn into something completely new: the gigabit. One gigabit is, on average, 100 times faster than your average internet connection.

I tested out the waters with a race between Google Fiber and my Mbps on Google Fiber’s homepage, and strongly suggest you do the same. It’s mind-blowing.

I chose to race at 50 Mbps because there was no happy medium between 25 Mbps and 50 Mbps, and I was close enough at 47 to justify it.

Want to download 100 pictures from that party you went to last weekend? Be prepared to wait 56 seconds before you can relive what you probably wanted to forget with your 50 Mbps connection, but only 3 seconds when you’re rolling with 1 Gbps. 

With your current connection, it’ll probably take you around a minute and six seconds to download 100 songs for your road trip. Who wants to wait over a minute to do anything? Do it in 3 seconds with Google Fiber.

It takes a 50 Mbps connection 59.83 seconds to download a game. If you’re working with a 1 Gbps connection, you’re looking at a whopping 3 seconds.

And if you can’t find anything on Netflix (this is a constant battle), you can always turn to the internet. If you want to wait over two minutes for a high definition movie to download, your current connection is perfect. But if you want to do in seven seconds, make friends with Google Fiber.

These numbers mean that Fiber is 20 times faster than the average internet connection. If you learn visually or don’t believe me (I almost didn’t believe me either), head here for the race and here for the visual.

“By bringing fiber directly to your home, we can deliver speeds up to one gigabit per second – which is 1000 Mbps compared to the U.S. average of 11.7 Mbps,” the source said. “Faster Internet can also prompt innovation, creativity, and new applications we could never imagine with slower speeds.”

Right? My god, I feel like I’ve been living in the Stone Age. I didn’t know I was waiting for the wheel to be invented, but now it’s here, and I need it.

How much does it cost?

Google hasn’t provided specific prices for Charlotte yet, but they’re expected to look a lot like Austin and Kansas City. High-speed internet hovers at $70/month while an internet and TV package is between $120 and $130/month. If you just want basic internet (5 Mbps), it’s free after the $300 installation.

To put it in perspective, internet users are paying, on average, $79.99/month for 15 Mbps internet + TV and $99.99/month for 50 Mbps internet + TV.

How do I get it?

The map below of where the first “fiberhoods” in Charlotte will be is a prediction from the Erichsen Group based on demographics and existing infrastructure and is far from official.

fiberhoods google fiber

Photo via Twitter

Kansas City, Austin and Provo are the lucky ones. It started as an experiment in Kansas City in 2012, but its power was quickly realized and no longer viewed as an experiment, but a business. It expanded to Austin and Provo within six months, and is coming quickly to Atlanta, Raleigh, Durham, Nashville, Salt Lake City, San Antonio and Charlotte.

From what I’ve gathered, it’s a long, drawn out process. Google works with the city to determine where the fiber optic cable should be laid. This involves getting permits for certain parts of the city (think apartment buildings and no-access roads), figuring out how to minimize the disruption level, and fighting through weather and limited work days and hours. It’s a complicated process that involves data mapping the city to figure out the best plan of action.

“As we get closer to bringing Fiber to the community, we’ll share more information about signing up for Google Fiber,” Google’s source said.

Until then, you can sign up to receive email updates here.

So… when can I get it?

This is when it gets tricky, because nobody knows. 

“We don’t have an exact timeline to share yet, but we started constructing our fiber network in June of this year,” the source said. “Construction is well underway in Charlotte.”

What does ‘well underway’ mean? It means building a “fiber ring, or backbone, all the way around the city.” This backbone makes it easier to connect fiber to a service area.

Each city is divided into Fiberhoods, a network of communities that each have their own Fiber team. If enough people show interest by signing up to have it brought to them, construction will start, last a few weeks, and then and only then can you expect to find it in your living room. Really.

I don’t know how I feel about turning into a popularity contest, but then again, I don’t know much. I’m the idiot writing The Idiot’s Guide to Google Fiber.

Be patient. None of us have Fiber yet – but this’ll be the only time we have to wait more than seven seconds for anything.

Cover image via Google


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