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Google's Smoking-Fast Fiber Network

The search giant vows to beat cable and telecom companies on speed
Google's Smoking-Fast Fiber Network
Typography by Matt Owens/Volumeone; Oz characters: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

The forward march of technology has yielded faster, cheaper computers and online services, but Internet access has crept along. While they’ve upgraded their systems, service providers have resisted committing the massive capital needed to entirely replace their networks of coaxial cable and twisted copper. “For the first time since the beginning of the commercial Internet, we don’t have a national wireline provider who says it is going to build a current network that is vastly better,” says Blair Levin, a fellow at the Aspen Institute and a former lawyer for the Federal Communications Commission. Enter Google, whose ambitious plans, besides driverless cars and high-tech glasses, include stringing high-speed fiber-optic cable directly to homes and businesses.

Google Fiber, slated for pilot runs this fall in Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., took center stage at a press conference on July 26. Google announced that, once the cables are in place, monthly subscribers will enjoy Internet speeds as much as 20 times faster than cable and telecom broadband networks. It’s a geek fantasy that could spur a new wave of innovation from startups around the world and, of course, from Google.