Google Fiber To Disconnect Free Internet Service Plan In Kansas City, But Why?

Google Fiber, which promises “a different kind of Internet,” has steadily made its way across the United States following its launch in 2012. But now, the company that initially only offered its gigabit Internet speeds and complimentary basic service to residents of Kansas City, has decided to drop its free service plan in the area.

Fiber, introduced by the Silicon Valley tech company, was primarily meant to challenge cable industry giants to offer better prices and Internet speeds. While Xfinity, SpeedNet‘s award recipient for fastest Internet Service Providers in 2015, clocked average download speeds of 105 Mbps, Google offered customers high-speed services up to 1 Gbps and Fiber TV at competitive monthly rates.

It also hosted a free tier that offered customers top download speeds of 5 megabytes per second and uploads up to 1 megabyte. The only cost for the Google Fiber free tier – a one-time installation fee of $300. The reason for the ditch in Kansas City? The company has new plans underway to give residents affected by the digital divide access to higher speeds. Because according to President Obama, “today high speed broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

The Google Fiber Network Box
[Photo By Paul Sableman |CC BY 2.0 via Commons]
Google Fiber is Closing the Digital Divide

Although they are scrapping the free service plan in the first Fiber location, Google made plans earlier in the year to do its part in helping the community connect. In 2015, Google joined forces with the Obama Administration and the United States Housing and Urban Development division to close the digital divide in low-income areas throughout the United States. Under the ConnectHome Initiative, free services were planned to be offered everywhere Fiber is available, but this time, free Internet plans will be targeted to specific schools and neighborhoods.

Google Fiber’s Vice President, Dennis Kish states, “Looking forward, we plan to bring gigabit Internet to select affordable housing in all of our Fiber cities. We’re working with local providers to identify which properties we’ll connect across these markets.”

In February, Kish offered more through Google’s blog, announcing the company’s plans for Kansas City following a successful trial run in Austin, Texas.

“Working side-by-side with the Housing Authority of Kansas City, we’re launching the program today at West Bluff, the first property to receive gigabit Internet as a part of this program. We’ve wired all 100 homes with Fiber, and families can sign up today to access the Internet at up to 1,000 Mbps. And through local ConnectHome partners, such as Connecting for Good and Surplus Exchange, they’ll also be able to purchase discounted devices and learn new computer skills. Across Kansas City, we’re working with local affordable housing providers to connect up to nine properties, reaching more than 1,300 families in the metro area.”

In the spirit of social responsibility, Google doesn’t plan to stop at the free high-speed Internet promised with the initiative. It will also offer access to get online, another luxury many schools and homes in low-income areas still lack, according to the White House.

“We’ll be complementing this $0/month Internet service by working with local partners to make new investments in computer labs and digital literacy classes so residents learn the skills they need to get online…The U.S. has some of the most expensive broadband in the world, while lagging far behind other countries in Internet speeds. And for families in affordable housing, cost can be one of the biggest barriers to getting online. Alongside our ConnectHome partners, we’re proud to make some of the fastest Internet more available and accessible to those who need it most.”

An Upgrade for Kansas City Customers

For those customers in Kansas City who are booted from the free tier when it ends on May 19, Digital Trends reports Google Fiber does provide the option to upgrade services. Customers can try its Fiber 100 with speeds up to 100 Mbps, no contract and no installation fees for $50 a month, or go faster with 1 Gbps broadband for $70. The host also offers TV and Internet packages starting at $120.

Contact your local Google Fiber consultant for pricing information or check out its site to find if Fiber is available in your area.

[Photo by The Gaming Patriot | Creative Commons]