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Google Fiber launches in Kansas City

Trial includes HD channels, superfast broadband

Google has put Kansas City on a high-fiber digital diet.

The tech titan finally took the wraps off its long-anticipated “experiment” Thursday to offer an entire city a combination of Internet and TV service after installing a 100-mile fiber-optic network capable of broadband speed far faster than what’s commonly available in the U.S.

A 1-gigabyte-per-second broadband connection and a tier of 161 TV channels will be available in parts of both Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., for $120 per month; the broadband alone goes for $70. Those who sign up must pay a $300 “construction” fee that’s waived for subscribers who ink two-year contracts.

Video service comes with an Android-powered Nexus 7 tablet that serves as a remote control; a set-top box capable of voice-recognition search; a network DVR with 500 hours of storage; VOD titles; and channels accessible across both Android and iOs devices.

Google Fiber will also have HD channels, some of which will be provided by major programming providers that are licensing nets including MTV, Discovery, USA, Hallmark Channel, and Starz. However, there are significant omissions including ESPN, HBO, TNT, AMC and Fox News.

Venture all but puts Google in the MSO business albeit on a limited basis. Though Google hasn’t talked about its plans beyond for the offering beyond Kansas City, the trial allows the company to get a sense of the technical complexities of video and broadband delivery before committing to a wider rollout.

Google Fiber will find itself competing for subs with local multichannel incumbents Time Warner Cable and AT&T. Google will face lower-priced rivals with better channel lineups in Kansas City, but the hope is that the combination of superfast speed and slicker gizmos like the tablet and DVR will make it worth the premium to consumers.

The 1-GB broadband speed is roughly 100 times faster than what the average cable modem provides. What’s more, Google Fiber will not impose caps on usage even as metered billing becomes more common among Internet service providers across the country.

Kansas City beat out over 1,000 U.S. cities for the rights to Google Fiber, which Google first announced more than two years ago.

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