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Google Fiber in Kansas City Makes Hollywood Nervous

Hollywood worries Google Fiber presages more piracy, competition
Google Fiber in Kansas City Makes Hollywood Nervous
Illustration by 731; Photograph by Robert Landau/Corbis

Of all the media industries dragged kicking and screaming into the brave new digital world—news, music, publishing—Hollywood has held up comparatively well. Although physical sales of DVDs and Blu-ray are falling, no single Web company dominates the online video realm, and consumers mostly still get their programming via pricey cable bundles. Poky Internet speeds—the U.S. average of about 5 megabits per second ranks 26th globally—means that pirates can’t swap bulky video files with the same insouciant ease as they do MP3s.

Google might change that. In 2010 the company announced plans to bring super-high-speed Internet access to select communities in America and in 2011 picked Kansas City to start. The search giant has said it hopes to spur innovation among cable companies and Internet service providers by demonstrating what’s possible with Internet speeds 100 times faster than the U.S. average. The project could also foreshadow dramatic changes for Hollywood, both because of the specter of piracy and Google’s possible experiments with new ways to distribute content legally.