Google Staggers K.C. Fiber Rollout

Since early 2011, Google has been promising to deliver warp-speed Internet to Kansas Citians — but most residents will be twiddling their thumbs for at least another year before they can get connected.

The company last week announced it will hook up 180 of the 202 neighborhoods targeted in its initial fiber-to-the-home buildout in Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan. However, Google won’t begin construction in 53% of those until next fall at the earliest, with 14% targeted for spring 2013 and 28% slated for summer 2013.

Google’s staggered schedule reflects the labor-intensive process of building a physical network and connecting residences literally one at a time. Moreover, the company warned that it may encounter delays.

“It’s important to note that our construction schedule isn’t set in stone — many factors, such as a harsh winter, may affect timing,” Google Access general manager Kevin Lo wrote in a blog post.

The Google Fiber project to deliver 1-Gigabit-per-second broadband without any usage limits, along with a next-generation IPTV service, is aimed at pushing incumbent cable operators and telcos to crank up their own Internet offerings.

But the heavy lifting and high cost involved have led industry observers to believe Google Fiber is a limited, one-off experiment.

Time Warner Cable, the incumbent MSO in the Kansas City area, has fewer than 100,000 Internet and 100,000 video subscribers that overlap with Google’s footprint, according to chief financial officer Irene Esteves.

“We’re talking about less than 1% of our subs [nationwide that are] at risk,” she said, speaking at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment conference on Sept. 12.

Esteves added that she doesn’t expect Google Fiber to expand beyond the initial K.C. market, estimating it would cost upward of $200 billion to deploy fiber-to-the-home nationwide.

Google declined to disclose how many people preregistered for the fiber service. Its franchise agreements in the Kansas City area cover about 1 million people.

Separately, Google announced deals with Disney/ ESPN Media Networks for 15 networks (including ESPN, Disney Channel and ABC Family) and with Turner Broadcasting System for 12 nets, including CNN, HLN, TBS and TNT. Other additions to the lineup include Ovation, TBN, TBN Enlace and Discovery Communications’ Velocity.

The Google Fiber service is $70 per month for broadband only with a one-year contract and $120 per month as part of a broadband/TV bundle with a two-year contract.