Google Fiber is well into the construction phase and already starting to offer tiers of service to potential customers in the Kansas City area. Among the three tiers is the “Gigabit + TV” package at $120 per month, which provides high-speed Internet, a strong lineup of channels and all the hardware you need for it.
What do you get in the Google Fiber TV package?
- Over 150 channels, with even more on the way. The channel lineup rivals the best cable and satellite packages, with HD coming at no additional cost. The bandwidth of fiber means that there’s much less need for video compression than you’ll get with traditional TV providers. Premium channels subscriptions are extra and you’ll still pay a la carte for On Demand programming.
- The TV Box. All viewing and control functions are routed through the TV Box, including programming the DVR, or connecting Bluetooth peripherals for keyboard-powered Internet surfing without an additional PC. The rest of the Google Fiber hardware can be hidden from view and the TV Box is sleek and low-profile compared to most set-top boxes. Cosmetic considerations aside, it’s also included in your monthly cost, so no additional fees for that either.
- The Storage Box. The 2TB Storage Box is perfectly integrated into the Google Fiber TV system, so you can program it to record shows and movies (up to an unprecedented 8 channels at once), not to mention storing all of your personal media (photos, videos, music, etc.). But if you need more storage space, you also get an additional Terabyte of Google Drive cloud storage.
- The Network Box. Using the same sleek black enclosure as The Storage Box (making the pair look good stacked together, even out in the open, the Network Box is your router that connects everything else. The Google Fiber system comes in to the Network Box and then goes out to your TV and the rest of your home via four Gigabit Ethernet ports and built-in Wi-Fi. Plus, you get the option to control it from anywhere (work, on the road, etc.), and still enjoy the security of a Gigabit firewall.
- Nexus 7. Google Fiber TV customers get the Asus-built Google Nexus 7 tablet to use as a universal remote control and more. Not only does it function as a full-featured remote, program guide, and DVR programmer, but it’s also a “second screen” to watch TV anywhere, as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection. This is a 7″ Android tablet with all the Internet browsing, app launching, social-media posting, eReading power of a cutting-edge Jelly Bean device.
- Google Fiber. Well, obviously, right? But it bears repeating that the package comes with a Gigabit (1000 Mbit/s) Internet connection. If you were trying to watch TV on most broadband connections, you could forget about browsing, surfing, communicating, playing, and/or downloading at the same time. But with Google Fiber, your bandwidth is wide enough to drive several virtual trucks through.
Okay, so what are the drawbacks?
- If you’re not in Kansas City, don’t start reaching for your wallet just yet. And even if you are, the infrastructure is still in progress. Google is exhorting potential customers to “rally their fiberhoods” to qualify for the service. It’s a lengthy and expensive task to lay fiber lines, and Google has yet to map out an official roadmap of which areas are getting it next and when. So for most of us, waiting and envying will be as close as we can come to Google Fiber.
- The channel lineup is lacking some biggies. The main holdout at the time of this writing is ESPN, which is popular enough to demand a much higher fee from cable providers than most channels (about five times as much). But other biggies include AMC, HBO, and Disney channels.
- Gigabit in name only? Yes, Google Fiber is capable of 1000 Mbit/s speeds, but most servers and routers aren’t. Field testing shows that actual speeds in Kansas City are more in the 200 Mbit/s range, which, to be fair, is still at least 100 times faster than most ISPs out there. And the speed your cable or DSL provider quoted you is also much higher than the upload/download speeds which you’ll get from them.
All things considered, does Google Fiber have what it takes to compete with other TV providers?
That’s a tricky question. As we’ve seen, Google Fiber is only a reality in one market, and the competitive effects are still more speculative than substantiated. Significantly, most of the very channels that its TV lineup now lacks are owned by Time Warner (one of the major cable TV and Internet providers in the country), indicating that the entrenched monopolies are extremely interested in finding ways to keep Google Fiber from attracting customers.
On the other hand, it’s impossible to deny that Google Fiber makes for a very appealing alternative to cable, DSL, and satellite. For a relatively reasonable monthly cost, customers get a solid HD channel lineup with free HD and DVR features, all of the Internet bandwidth they could ever want, and a 7″ tablet and Wi-Fi router thrown into the bargain. Toss in the possibilities of VoIP telephone and you have a complete service that gives you more for much less than any current provider’s “bundles” can possibly offer.
Justin is a sports, marketing and tech enthusiast. When not in the stands watching University of Utah football you can find him writing and blogging for USDirect