Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Google Gets Into the Cable TV Business, for Real

Google just announced as part of its Google Fiber broadband Internet service that it will be getting into the real TV business.

The disclosure came at a presentation in Kansas City, where it is unveiling a high-speed Internet offering. The presentation is still unfolding so I’ll be adding more information as it comes. The big question is which networks will be participating with Google.

The TV experience will not only be available on regular TVs in HD quality, but also on iPads and Android tablets, via a Google Fiber TV app. It also includes a DVR-service that has two terabytes of storage.

The Internet service is going to run at 1 gigabit a second, both for downloading and uploading, which is about 100 times faster than the standard cable modem that runs at about 15 megabits. The service comes bundled with a terabyte of network storage on Google Drive.

Google first petitioned the FCC for the right to sell pay TV service in Feburary. That move followed its selection of Kansas City as the site of its market trial for superfast fiber optic broadband service.

Oh, and? Everyone who gets the service also gets a Nexus 7 tablet as a remote control.

The channel list is extensive and includes a lot of channels I’ve never heard of — you can click to it here — but also appears to be missing some biggies. There’s Showtime and Encore, but no Disney, no HBO. Also nothing from Time Warner, which includes HBO, TNT and TBS. (Also no BBC America, which is what I’ve been watching lately. What can I say? I like “Top Gear”!) Also nothing from News Corp., which includes Fox News, FX and the Fox regional sports networks. (Note: News Corp. owns Dow Jones, which owns this Web site.) Also, since MTV and Nickelodeon are on the list, it’s clear that Google has done a deal with Viacom, even though Viacom is still suing Google over YouTube. Okay, then.

Here’s the breakdown on the packages: First off, there’s a $300 construction fee that covers the cost of physically stringing the fiber optic line to a house. This was the one point in the proceedings where the cheering Kansans were a little silent. Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Access, likened it to “adding value to your home” — like renovating a kitchen.

Once you’ve done that, there are two packages. One includes TV and Internet, and will cost $120 a month. Then there’s an Internet-only package that will cost $70 a month. Signing up for a year’s contract, however, waives the construction fee. Finally, there’s a third package for people who are a little leery or who can’t afford the mainstream packages. They can get a basic service of five megabits down and one megabit up for free, for up to seven years, and pay the construction fee over time. That’s a nod to the national problem of basic broadband access, which tends to hit rural and lower-income areas.

But there’s a weird rub to all this. While the plans are finalized, a lot of it isn’t built yet. Lo talked about how Kansas City neighborhoods (both on the Kansas and Missouri sides of the border — or, as the locals call it, KC-K or KC-MO) — will have to compete to demonstrate that they’re really interested in having the package. It’s not open to just anyone, but to the areas where the people get together and demonstrate that there’s enough demand to make it profitable for Google to invest in the infrastructure. This element of the whole Google Fiber experiment will be a very interesting part of the whole process. The presentation ended with a big “Let’s do this” video segment, and concluded with a joint appearance by the mayors of each Kansas City, who basically urged their citizens to get it done.

The video just hit YouTube, and it’s worth watching, if only for the interesting conceptual animation that Google did at the start:

(Image courtesy of Google Fiber)

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus