Sonya Andrews may not be the first on her block to tap into Google Inc.s much-hyped, hyper-fast Internet hook-ups announced Thursday.
But her neighborhood could be one of the first in Kansas City to get an express lane to the web.
I dont know about anyone else, she emailed her Coleman Highlands neighbors in midtown, but I am super excited about this and hope that others are too!
Enough were jazzed by the possibility of buying Internet access from Google that by Thursday afternoon the company was committed to run its crews there eventually.
Andrews Google evangelism is just what the California technology titan was hoping for from its effort to rally Kansas Citians to the companys long-awaited, first-in-the-nation Internet services.
Google first announced plans to launch the service in 2010, but until now had revealed few specifics.
On Thursday it issued a now-or-never challenge to nearly all of Kansas City, Kan., and a central swath of Kansas City fiberhoods Google-speak for neighborhoods where it might run its fiber optic network.
• Get 10 percent of the homes in your area to sign up for service it takes a $10 deposit and Google will eventually hook you up.
• Meet that quota by Sept. 9, or the network will fly around you. And if Google does come to your neighborhood, youll have just once chance for installation.
South Kansas City and the area north of the Missouri River could get similar offers later.
Google unveiled the details of its coming TV and Internet services Thursday even offering free access to the web and the novel rollout strategy that transforms customers into marketers.
The web-search company announced that a bundle of TV and ultra-fast Internet will sell for $120 a month. That includes three devices needed to stream Wi-Fi signals and to store large amounts of computer data and TV programming. It will also come with a Nexus 7 an iPad-like device that runs on Googles Android operating system.
Not just Internet TV, but real TV with your favorite channels, said Milo Medin, vice president of access services at Google.
The companys demonstration of the TV service appeared as impressive as any DVR-type service on the market. It allows people to control the TV with the Nexus tablet, with their smartphones or with old-fashioned remote controls. A household will be able to record eight shows at a time, store 500 hours and search through tens of thousands of on-demand movies in Googles catalogue, in addition to Netflix accounts.
The TV package has big holes in programming, however. It lacks ESPN, the most popular and expensive part of most cable packages, and other Disney Corp. offerings.
Were launching Google Fiber with content providers who share our vision, a Google spokeswoman said in an email when asked about the missing channels. Over time, we will be expanding our TV package well beyond the channels it currently includes.
Or you can get stand-alone Internet at speeds more than 100 times faster than most broadband for $70. By comparison, Comcast Corp. recently announced it would sell speeds of 305 megabits per second Googles offering is three times faster for $300 a month.
Both the TV and Internet-only deals come with two-year contracts, for which the company said it will waive a $300 installation charge.
Theres a third option. The arrival of Google had set off worries that people with no Internet would be left out of a community transformation fired by faster-than-fast Internet. So Google announced it would provide free Internet service albeit at far slower speeds for seven years to customers who pay for installation. That $300 charge can be paid off in monthly $25 installments.
Googles fiber optic network will run slightly different from how Google described it in early 2010. Then, the company said it would operate an open access network, giving users the choice of multiple service providers.
On Thursday, Google Fiber project manager Kevin Lo confirmed for the first time in an interview that Google decided not to open the network to other Internet service providers.
We dont think anybody else, he said, can deliver a gig the way we can.
Googles entry into the TV and Internet service is enough to make a cable mans knees buckle. Comparing the prices on the services is difficult particularly because no other company comes close on Internet speed and Googles TV package is so different from standard services. Somewhat surprisingly to analysts, Google is not offering landline phone service.
Still, its a bold declaration by Google that speeds of a gigabit-per-second are practical and affordable in the home.
The cable and telephone industries have long said that the cost of stretching fiber optic wires all the way to the home has made such speedy Internet impractical. They also contend that customers rarely express interest in speeds much beyond 10 megabits a second, much less something 100 times faster.
Google looks as though its able to cut the cost of deploying such a network in two ways.
First, by targeting neighborhoods with the strongest interest, it can lower its installation costs by going only where there are large numbers of eager customers, stopping by once and moving on.
Second, it brings the same electronic engineering and manufacturing know-how that has increasingly scaled down the cost of building football-sized data centers around the globe.
Were an engineering company, Google chief financial officer Patrick Pichette said in an interview Thursday. Google has a knack at looking at things in a different way.
The competition spoke boldly in the wake of Googles announcement Thursday.
We compete with anyone, anytime, anywhere, said Time Warner Cable spokesman Michael Pedelty.
The companys 900 local employees, he said, can stand up to Googles challenge. Bring it on, he said.
Google remained coy about how quickly the service would be installed across the market. The Kansas City, Kan., fiberhood where the most customers sign up will get service first. Then the next most eager, and so on. Google officials said installations on the Missouri side would start before the work in Kansas was done.
The earliest neighborhoods could see service some time in September. How quickly the service spreads to other neighborhoods remained unclear.
Medin said it might take three to four months for the first 10 neighborhoods Google defines fiberhoods as averaging about 800 residences. That could shift depending on how many people ask for hook-ups.
Now that Google has said what its selling, Kansas City will see whether the company known for software genius can deliver in a hardware setting.
On Thursday it demonstrated upload and download speeds that fall slightly short of its promise of a gigabit-per-second, but still blazingly fast compared to ordinary broadband.
The Google Fiber project has proven more daunting than even Google anticipated. It originally promised that some customers in Kansas City, Kan., could begin signing up in late 2011 and expect the service to light up before Easter.
The Google Fiber project bubbled up from the Mountain View, Calif., headquarters more than two years ago.
Google has long been pushing cable and telephone companies to deliver Internet services capable of pumping massive amounts of data think of downloading a high-definition movie in a minute or two rather than hours. With Google Fiber, the company essentially declared it would prove industrial-strength connections were practical for the home.
Google asked for no up-front subsidies when it chose the Kansas City market last spring. But it did win some concessions. In Wyandotte County, for instance, it was given the option of hanging its wires on parts of utility poles usually off-limits to communication lines and for free.
In the end, doing so was unwieldy, and Google agreed to conventional attachment rates for access next to cable and telephone wires.
City officials on both sides of the state line also agreed to expedite the companys permitting process and to assign staff specifically to help Google. They also gave Google access to public rights-of-way, offered them space in city facilities, and provided public relations and marketing help.
Time Warner Cable became the principal television-subscription company in the market decades ago. It did so under a franchise agreement that gave it a virtual monopoly to sell cable TV, in part for a pledge to offer the service to nearly every home.
Since then, a deregulation of the industry has allowed other companies to sell hard-wired TV services in neighborhoods where old franchise holders such as Time Warner already offer services.
Such so-called overbuilders Google now joins AT&Ts U-verse service and SureWest Communications have certain disadvantages. They dont just have to convince people to buy their services. They must also convince consumers to go through the hassle, and often installation expense, of switching from the incumbent cable provider.
But they also have some key advantages. For instance, they need only offer service where they see a profit. Outfits like Time Warner and Comcast Corp., on the other hand, were obligated by their franchise agreements to reach nearly every neighborhood including those that pose geographic challenges or poorer areas where a significant percentage of residents are less likely to buy the most profitable subscriptions.
In that respect, theres a certain savvy to Googles rollout strategy. By only going into neighborhoods where enough consumers prove theyll pay, the company builds in great efficiencies to building the network. No need to dispatch crews and rip up asphalt in pursuit of a handful of potential customers when Google can laser in on the most eager concentrations of subscribers.
Its also a risky approach. Pay-TV service customers have become accustomed to specials free or discounted installation, free trials of high-tier programming.
Experts note that a faster Internet connection wont speed all you do on the Internet. Rather, it could expose new bottlenecks. Your computer or other electronics may not be powerful enough to process things as quickly as youre able to download them.
But other problems will evaporate. No more buffering of Netflix movies. Junior can download a movie in his room while Sis goes crazy sharing songs with her buddies, even as Mom and Dad use Skype to talk with Grandpa.
Normally a gigabit connection is going to be in the neighborhood of $500 a month, said Kansas State University computer scientist Dan Andresen, if you can get it.
The Stars Sangeeta Shastry contributed to this report.