Google Fiber sets Austin launch date for December

Wes Scarborough

Residents in South and Southeast Austin will be able to sign up for Google Fiber in December after waiting almost two years since the service was first announced.

Google held a briefing Wednesday at its Austin office about the Internet service the company will offer to its customers.

“Think about how many things you don’t want to click due to speed,” said Mark Strama, city manager for Google Fiber. “Speed is really important to us as a company, and we want to bring that to Austin.”

In November 2012, Kansas City became the only city to have the network. Google announced in April 2013 that Austin would be the next city to get Google Fiber.

David Anthony, technical program manager for Google Fiber, said the project goal is to install thousands of miles of fiber optic cable that will run right to people’s homes. The cables are made of hair-thin fibers of glass that transmit information close to the speed of light.

“This is the next step of the Internet,” Anthony said.

According to Anthony, the network delivers Internet speed at one gigabit per second, which is a hundred times faster than the current broadband speeds in the U.S. At this speed, a digital movie can be downloaded in less than two minutes, and high definition video can be streamed with little to no buffering.

“There will be no more waiting for the gray bar to fill up on the screen,” Strama said. “No more friction.”

Parisa Fatehi-Weeks, community impact manager for Fiber, said it is too soon to determine when student neighborhoods, such as West Campus and Hyde Park, will be able to sign up for Fiber. Strama said that a “fiberhood” has to have a certain number of people to sign up in order to receive the service for their respective neighborhood.

Fatehi-Weeks also talked about the Community Leaders program that aims to build greater digital literacy for underprivileged communities in Austin.

Fatehi-Weeks said that the program involves students helping people in the areas of Austin that have lower levels of Internet access. She said that students teach skills, such as how to setup an email or how to use a computer.

According to Fathehi-Weeks, 30 UT students take part in the program, as well as 20 others from both Huston-Tillotson University and St. Edward’s University. All 50 of the students work with employees called “Google Mentors” and will act as ambassadors for Fiber in underprivileged communities.

“Not every part of Austin will get Fiber,” Strama said. “But every area will get an opportunity to get it.”