Google’s bootprint in Austin won’t be Texas-sized

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Google Fiber plans to start offering gigabit service in a handful of Austin neighborhoods in December. That’s the word from a press conference held by Google earlier today. Details are sketchy so far – all I could find in the way of coverage this afternoon was a brief write-up on a website published by a local newspaper, Community Impact.

The article, bylined by Joe Lanane, identifies Austin’s South Lamar, Zilker, Bouldin and Travis Heights neighborhoods as ground zero, and quotes Mark Strama, Google’s local manager, as saying…

That is where we will start—that is not where we will finish…Not every part of Austin will get fiber, but all areas will have the opportunity, and we will build in the areas with the highest demand.”

Lanane reported that Strama did not say how much Google is going to charge for the promised gigabit-level service, but that at least one element of the Kansas City package will remain on the table: pay a $300 connection fee and get “free” Internet service – 5 Mbps in KC – for a period of time.

It appears that, as in Kansas City, Google will focus on building out in Austin fiberhoods where a sufficient number of residents have ordered service.

Google is not putting universal service on the table. It clearly is cherrypicking affluent neighborhoods. But the impact of Google Fiber on the Austin market is more widespread. It’s no coincidence that AT&T just announced it is offering actual gigabit service there – as opposed to its Gigapower gigaweasel – although, like Google, availability is more limited than you might think. In AT&T’s case, only those homes – primarily recently built ones – with direct fiber connections qualify.

Lots of questions to answer still. But at least we now have a deadline to watch.

About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.